The Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei has been awarded the 2022 Praemium Imperiale Award for “sculpture”, which comes with a £100,000 prize pot (15m Yen). He is among the five international recipients of the award presented by the Japan Art Association, an organisation under the patronage of Prince Hitachi. The other winners are the Japanese architects Sanaa (Architecture), Giulio Paolini (Painting), Wim Wenders (Theatre/Film) and Krystian Zimerman (Music) who all receive £100,000 each.
In a film shown at the award presentation today in London, praise was given to Ai’s project Remembering (2009), a work honouring the 5,000 children who died in the Sichuan earthquake of 2008 as a result of poorly built schools. Prize officials described his work as being “driven by an indignation at the injustices he sees around him”. “My vocabulary has no taboo,” the artist said in the film.
Ai is currently curating an exhibition of works created by prisoners and people across the UK’s criminal justice system, which will open at the Southbank Centre in London next month. The Freedom show, to be held in the exhibition space of the Royal Festival Hall (27 October-18 December), marks the 60th anniversary of the Koestler Awards, a prize initiative organised by the Koestler Arts charity which exhibits and sells works by detainees.
The Tokyo-based firm Sanaa have designed major museums worldwide including the Louvre Lens in France, which was unveiled in 2012. Their latest creation, the expansion of the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, features an airy glass-fronted new building above a pair of decommissioned Second World War oil tanks.
In 2021, it was announced that Sanaa would oversee the expansion of Moscow’s Garage Museum of Contemporary Art into the historic Hexagon pavilion next door, which was built almost a century ago in Gorky Park.
All laureates are selected from lists submitted by “international advisors” across a number of countries. The advisors and their committees propose names to the Japan Art Association after which specialist committees in Tokyo convene and make the final selection. Men outnumber women among past laureates (Louise Bourgeois and Rebecca Horn stand out on the sculpture award list that includes Antony Gormley, El Anatsui and James Turrell).
A £30,000 (5m Yen) grant for young artists, also awarded annually by the Japan Art Association, goes this year to the Kronberg Academy Foundation in Germany which offers advanced training for young musicians.