The Serpentine Gallery hosted an awards show on 11 January for a new art prize, Visible 2011. The prize, curated by Matteo Luchetti and Judith Wielander, was conceived by the Italian artist and art activist Michelangelo Pistoletto, in collaboration with the Fondazione Zegna. A partnership with the Serpentine was forged during Pistoletto’s 2011 installation The Mirror of Judgement.
Set firmly against the idea of art for art’s sake, the prize is dedicated to artists and collectives who aim to bring about responsible social change through their artistic practices. This idea is rooted in the mission behind Pistoletto’s foundation, that art should not be self-referential.
Four final candidates were chosen from a total of 27 international submissions. The jury assembled for the occasion was an all-star line-up: Michelangelo Pistoletto himself; Ute Meta Bauer, the associate professor and director of the visual arts programme at MIT; Hans-Ulrich Obrist, the director of international projects at the Serpentine Gallery; Okwui Enwezor, the artistic director at the Haus der Kunst, Munich; and Andrea Zegna, the co-founder of the Fondazione Zegna.
In a unanimous decision, the winner of the €25,000 prize was the Colombian collective Helena Producciones, with their submission “8 Festival de la Performance di Cali”. Based in Cali, Colombia, the festival’s influence extends over many parts of the country, acting as a free educational platform and as a vehicle for engaged artistic, social, political and economic debate. The scope and ambition of the project, which is now approaching its eighth edition, secured its place as the winner in the eyes of the judges.
“We were especially interested in projects with longevity and with specific social goals,” says Hans-Ulrich Obrist. “We live in tumultuous times, and we have seen many examples of artists with a strong civic imagination at work in the recent political and social uprisings around the world.”
Even though the prize is still in its infancy, there are already high hopes for the future, especially its international reach. “We presented the award in London to create international awareness, but if you map the competition entries you realise they came from all kinds of social contexts, from Eastern Europe to Asia and Latin America,” says Obrist. “This reflects the growing polyphony of the art world. Often the best entries came from where we least expected.
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