Yesterday I battled through the streets of London thronged with the Queen’s mourners to make my way to Asia House, where Lord Patten of Barnes was announcing the recipients of the Praemium Imperiale Awards. Asia House stepped into the breach when it became apparent it was not possible to hold it, as planned, at the ICA due to the vast crowds gathering in the Mall. The prize worth £500,000 has been awarded annually since 1989 to honour those working in the categories of Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, Music and Theatre/Film, fields of achievement not recognised by the Nobel Prize.
The list is selected by six International Advisors. This year they included Hilary Rodham Clinton, Lamberto Dini (former Prime Minister of Italy), Klaus-Dieter Lehmann, one-time President of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, Christopher Patten, the last British governor to Hong Kong, and Jean-Pierre Raffin, one-time Prime Minister of France, and founder of the centre-right party UM. Past Laureates have included painters such as Cy Twombly and Anslem Kiefer, sculptors like Anthony Caro, Rebecca Horn and Christo & Jeanne-Claude. While the architects have included Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers, and Zaha Hadid, music has thrown up such names as Pierre Boulez and Leonard Bernstein. Among those nominated for theatre and film have been Athol Fugard, Martin Scorsese and Judi Dench. There is also a grant for young and up-and-coming artists. This year it has been awarded to the Kronberg Academy Foundation – a cultural organisation offering advanced training to exceptionally gifted young musicians.
Those nominated for this year’s individual awards include the Italian painter Giulio Paolini who has lived most of his life in Turin. In his work composed of a range of media, including painting, photography, and sculpture, he creates poetic, introspective spaces, often turning his hand to playful and through-provoking theatre and opera sets.
The Japanese partnership of Kazuyo Sejima & Ryue Nishizawa (SANAA) is this year’s nominee for architecture. Fluid lyrical buildings full of light and movement, such as the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa (2004), are their hallmark.
Renowned for combining expressive originality with a clarity and precision, the Polish-born Krystian Zimerman has been nominated for music, in recognition of the new heights to which he has taken piano performances. Combining innate talent with bravura technical skills he unlocks new meaning in the works of the great composers.
Wim Wenders has long been considered one of the most important post-war cinematographers. A director, producer, photographer and writer, his films such as Paris Texas and Wings of Desire defined the mood of the age. While his documentaries, including his Oscar-nominated Buena Vista Social Club, have taken him to a wider audience.
Most of the nominees were not able to attend the ceremony, but the activist, artist and filmmaker Ai Weiwei, winner of the award for sculpture, was in conversation with Lord Pattern discussing migration and freedom of expression. The son of a renowned dissident poet Ai Qing, denounced by the Communist regime, the Chinese artist’s early years were marked by hardship. Now one of the world’s most prominent advocates of human rights, he was detained in 2011 and held in secret detention for 81 days after gathering the names of more than 5,000 children who had died after the collapse of corrupt and faulty building work, which he then integrated into a powerful series of artworks.
The Japan Art Association, under the honorary patronage of His Imperial Highness Prince Hitachi, younger brother of the Emperor Emeritus of Japan, is Japan’s oldest cultural foundation. Previously known as Ryuchikai, it was founded in 1879, just as Japan, which had largely been closed to the outside world, was beginning to open its doors to western cultural influence. The Praemium Imperiale Awards remain unique in their recognition of five of the major arts, while its list of past Laureates reads like a Who’s Who in the arts of the 20th and early 21st centuries.
Words and photos Sue Hubbard ©Artlyst 2022
Sue Hubbard is a freelance art critic, award-winning poet and novelist. Her latest novel, Rainsongs, is available from www.duckworthbooks.co.uk and her fourth, Flatlands, is due from www.pushinpress.com in 2023.
Her latest poetry collection, Swimming to Albania, is published by www.slamonpoetry.com. Her series of poems on the artist Gwen John, God’s Little Artist, is due from www.serenbooks.com in 2023