Here are the winners of the 2019 Praemium Imperiale: Kentridge, Hatoum, Williams and Tsien, Mutter and Tamasaburo

Winners of the XXXI Praemium Imperiale announced: they are William Kentridge, Mona Hatoum, Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, Anne-Sophie Mutter and Bando Tamasaburo.

The winners of the XXXI Praemium Imperiale, the most important international arts prize, which is awarded annually by the Japan Art Association in the fields of painting, sculpture,architecture, music and theater/cinema, were announced this morning in Rome. For painting, the award goes to William Kentridge (Johannesburg, 1955). In the field of sculpture, the award is given to Mona Hatoum (Beirut, 1952), while for architecture, Tod Williams (New York, 1943) and Billie Tsien (Ithaca, New York, 1949) of the eponymous architectural firm win. Finally, the award for music goes to Anne-Sophie Mutter (Rheinfelden, 1963), and the award for theater/cinema is given to Bandō Tamasaburō (Tokyo, 1950). The awardees thus come from all five continents.

Like every year, this year’s Praemium Imperiale recognizes the Grant for Young Artists, a grant for young artists, which this year goes to the Démos project, a music education project run by the Paris Philharmonic that since its founding year (2010), has provided music education to children between the ages of 7 and 12 in rural areas or suburban settings, where classical music usually does not arrive or is not adequately promoted. The award (a medal to be presented by Prince Hitachi, uncle of the Emperor of Japan, who is known for his philanthropic activities, and an honorarium of 15 million yen, or about 115 thousand euros) will be presented to the winners on Oct. 16, 2019, at an awards ceremony to be held in Tokyo.

William Kentridge uses drawing, film, performance, and sculpture to investigate the ideas and conventions of our world. He graduated from Johannesburg with a degree in political science, studied theater in Paris, and for some time tried to be an actor. Eventually, in his late thirties, back in South Africa, he began his career as an artist with motion drawings, a technique of making additions and erasures to charcoal drawings that are filmed one frame at a time and linked together technically so as to give an animation style. This is a seemingly very simple technique, compared to other modern styles, but one that is said to capture the depth of time. Themes such as change, memory, and time are recurrent in Kentridge’s production, and his ideas migrate from one type of work to another. Kentridge won the 2003 Kaiserring Prize, the 2010 Kyoto Prize, the 2017 Princess of Asturias Prize, and the 2018 Antonio Feltrinelli International Prize.

Mona Hatoum, is a Palestinian artist whose production is made in a range of diverse and often unconventional media, such as installations, video, sculpture, photography, and works on paper. Over the years, starting with research rooted in surrealism and which began by investigating the human body, she has developed a language in which familiar, domestic subjects of everyday life are transformed into something foreign, threatening and dangerous (e.g. kitchen objects or household tools). She says she is interested in the “uncanny”: when a situation is perfectly familiar suddenly appears strange because it is associated with a traumatic event, this creates feelings of anxiety, discomfort, terror. In this way, Mona Hatoum challenges our certainties. In 2011 she won the Joan Miró Prize, In 2017 she received the Hiroshima Art Prize and the visit to Japan that followed was the inspiration for her work Remains of the day. Today she is considered one of the world’s leading artists, her solo shows have been held at the Centre Pompidou and the Tate Modern in London, she has exhibited at the Venice Biennale and Documenta, and her work can be found in collections around the world.

Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, husband and wife, have worked together since 1977 and live in New York City, where they founded an architectural firm that bears their name and caters primarily to public and institutional clients such as schools, museums, nonprofits and more. They believe that architecture is an act of profound optimism, and they seek to work for institutions that share this view. Their aspiration as architects is to serve their clients by bringing to life projects that embody their mission and values. Their practice explores potential and materials, and their work is marked by beauty, timelessness and use. “People,” says Billie Tsien, “say that the structures we design are like people; we try to make sure that our buildings are imbued with a sense of belonging. They also want to inspire in those who enter them a feeling of awe.” They are two very different personalities: Williams is a man from the American Midwest, while Tsien is a Chinese American born in upstate New York and describes herself as both American culture and Chinese temperament. One of their most interesting works is the Barnes Foundation museum, built in 2012, which is an example of this philosophy and approach that characterizes their design practice. In the future, Williams and Tsien will design the Obama Presidential Centre in Chicago on behalf of former U.S. President Barack Obama. Their buildings, located mainly in the United States, have won major awards.

Ann-Sophie Mutter is considered one of the greatest contemporary violinists; her vibrato technique is unanimously praised, as are her expressive skills, musical knowledge, and love of wide-ranging music. For more than four decades she has been the leading interpreter of the classical violin. A precocious talent, when she was only thirteen years old she was invited by Herbert von Karajan to play for the Berlin Philharmonic, an orchestra with which she continues to collaborate to this day. She made her debut in Japan with Karajan in 1981 and went on to work with many of the world’s greatest conductors, including André Previn, Zubin Mehta and Daniel Barenboim. Her repertoire is varied, ranging from the classics to pieces written for her by great contemporary composers. At the age of 34, she started a foundation to support new talent: the foundation now bears her name. In 2011 she started Mutter’s Virtuosi project, under her artistic direction: it consists of those who have or have had a scholarship from her foundation, and other selected young musicians. Mutter believes it is important to pass on to new generations what she has received from her masters. She has won numerous awards (including four Grammy Awards), has been the recipient of various honors (Cross of Merit 1st Class in Germany, Legion of Honor in France, Gold Medal of Merit for Fine Arts in Spain, Honorary Member of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Italy, and many others). He has been playing a Stradivarius violin for 35 years.

Bandō Tamasaburō, in the Japanese tradition of kabuki theater, is considered a legend and is regarded as one of the greatest Onnagata actors. He is famous and much admired for his ability to portray female beauty and express the spirit of the character he plays. Over the years he has played all the major roles that embody the wonder and charm of kabuki. In Japan, her popularity transcends the world of kabuki; in particular, she has established celebrated and enduring artistic collaborative relationships with other artists, also in her home country. Bandō Tamasaburō’s creativity does not stop with kabuki: since childhood, he has played heroines of non-kabuki theater, revealing the creative mind, and constantly turned to research, he has also worked internationally playing various parts. He has been recognized as a “Living National Treasure” by Japan, and is considered a master of his own art, an ambassador of Japanese culture, and an enormous creative force.

Ph. Credits: Peter Campbell (William Kentridge), Johnnie Shand Kydd (Mona Hatoum)

Here are the winners of the 2019 Praemium Imperiale: Kentridge, Hatoum, Williams and Tsien, Mutter and Tamasaburo
Here are the winners of the 2019 Praemium Imperiale: Kentridge, Hatoum, Williams and Tsien, Mutter and Tamasaburo

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