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Otobong Nkanga wins BelgianArtPrize 2017
Otobong Nkanga, In a Place Yet Unknown, 2017, Woven textile and metal © Philippe De Gobert.

BRUSSELS.- Otobong Nkanga was pronounced the winner of the BelgianArtPrize 2017 at the official awards ceremony in BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts on April 19. The biennial art prize focuses on stimulating leading mid-career artists and contributing to their further career development through increased international visibility. In that respect the prize is similar to other European prizes such as the Turner Prize in the United Kingdom, the Prix Marcel Duchamp in France and the Prix de Rome in the Netherlands.

The winner was chosen from the four finalists (Edith Dekyndt, Simona Denicolai & Ivo Provoost, Otobong Nkanga and Maarten Vanden Eynde) by a distinguished international jury consisting of Beatrix Ruf (Director of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam), Hans Ulrich Obrist (Artistic Director of the Serpentine Galleries in London) and Dieter Roelstraete (Co-curator of Documenta 14), art collector Mimi Dusselier (who has been involved in visual arts for the past 30 years) and Estelle Francès Lasserre (Director of the Fondation d’Entreprise Francès).

The international jury has decided to award the Belgian Art Prize 2017 to Otobong Nkanga in recognition of her extraordinary and complex artistic practice. Nkanga is an artist who records the social and topographical changes of her environment, who observes their inherent complexities and understands how resources such as soil and earth, and their potential values, are subject to regional and cultural analysis. Her work invites the spectator to enter into a dialogue about the intangibility of identity, memory and perception and to observe how these parameters change when presented within a specific composition and recitation through language. The jury sees Otobong Nkanga’s contribution to the international art scene through her installations as extremely valuable.

The jury applauded the commitment of the four nominated artists and praised the quality of their diverse artistic practices. The finalists translated both local and international cultural histories into strong works with powerful immediacy that evoke the social and political commitment of each of the nominees. The poetic and enigmatic character of each proposition reflects the complexities and challenges of today’s world.

During the ceremony the winner was awarded € 25,000, presented by Roland Gillion Crowet, president of the non-profit association La Jeune Peinture Belge-Contemporary Art and founder of the BelgianArtPrize: “Since 1950, the association La Jeune Peinture Belge, a group of art lovers, art professionals and collectors, has organised, in collaboration with the Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels, a biennial art prize that offers a platform to young artists in Belgium. The transformation of this historic art prize into the BelgianArtPrize is in line with the association’s desire to consolidate the position of this art prize in a global context and to contribute to the international network and further development of the careers of four mid-career artists living and working in Belgium. The Belgian Art Prize contributes to the development of the artist’s career, both in Belgium and abroad. That is why my wife and I are delighted to offer this prize as a tribute to my father-in-law Pierre Crowet, founding member of the Belgian Young Painting since 1950 and president until his death in 1984. I had the honour of succeeding him at that time, and we are therefore continuing his work of patronage and encouragement in order to represent and support the winner and the three other finalists."

Paul Dujardin, CEO and Artistic Director of the Centre for Fine Arts/BOZAR, continues: “The aim of the BelgianArtPrize remains to encourage; it is a look forward, much more than a look back. The BelgianArtPrize is meant to be a prize, which – in hindsight – sets things in motion and stimulates the creation of new artworks. As the exhibition takes place at the Centre for Fine Arts, we are giving the artists visibility in a place with an emphatically European cultural mission. We activate a broad network. The Jeune Peinture Belge – Contemporary Art non-profit organisation and BOZAR share the same international ambition and commitment to the artists.”

Commenting on the selection of the four finalists for the BelgianArtPrize, Sophie Lauwers, Head of Exhibitions at the Centre for Fine Arts/BOZAR, declared: "Edith Dekyndt, Simona Denicolai & Ivo Provoost, Maarten Vanden Eynde and Otobong Nkanga offer a vision, a glimpse, of what is also in reality an open Belgian scene. Very often thanks to private dynamic and initiatives and the intelligence of the actors in the artistic world, it is one that transcends functional or institutional compartmentalisation. While all the artists have shown merit with their impressive achievements, the four finalists stand out for the diversity of their respective positioning and the benefits a BelgianArtPrize award is likely to represent in further pursuing their promising careers. I am very proud to be here today alongside these four major and enterprising artists who emphasise Belgium's major role on the international contemporary art scene.

The winner of the ING Public Prize was also announced at this same awards ceremony. Maarten Vanden Eynde was chosen by public vote as the public’s favourite artist. He was awarded € 10,000, an amount that the artist will use as to further develop his/her artistic career. Patricia De Peuter, Head of the ING Art Department: “The public has understood Maarten Vanden Eynde’s message loud and clear, and with good reason. Maarten has been engaged in a highly original research field for years and he is fully cognizant of the economic, social and historical processes that clarify our time and also determine our future. His biggest challenge has been to find a way to visualise this research in his art. His submission for BAP2017 in BOZAR is powerfully convincing, not only due to its labour-intensive aspect but most of all thanks to its imposing presence. Maarten’s work provides plenty of food for thought and has clearly inspired the public to vote for him.”

The exhibition is on show at BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts until 28 May.

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