The Nasher Sculpture Center announced today that American artist Michael Rakowitz (b. 1973) will be the recipient of the 2020 Nasher Prize. In its fifth year, the prize consists of an award designed by Nasher Sculpture Center architect Renzo Piano and $100,000. The Nasher Prize is an international award that seeks to recognize living artists who have significantly contributed to sculpture and ‘elevated the understanding of sculpture and its possibilities.’ Rakowitz will receive his award on April 4th of next year in Dallas.
‘Rakowitz weaves dense webs of meaning in distinct bodies of work rich with insight and surprise,’ said Jeremy Strick, director of the Nasher Sculpture Center, of the prize’s newest laureate. In his nearly three decades of work, Rakowitz has created an incredibly dynamic body of works. A thread that runs through his works, though, is the intense research he undertakes to produce works which focus on reclaiming and reexamining ‘complicated aspects of material and cultural histories or event.’
Throughout his career, Rakowitz has responded to issues of immigration and refugees dealing especially with the Middle East, which in recent years, has become a particularly poignant topic. His works have also closely responded to major events. In 2003, for example, following the US invasion of Iraq, Rakowitz’s focus was honed on issues of identity as he worked with his own understanding of heritage as an American with Iraqi Jewish roots. RETURN (2006) was one such project in which Rakowitz reopened his grandfather’s Brooklyn import/export business after he extensively researched his own family history alongside that of other exiles, immigrants, and refugees who were displaced by the war in Iraq.
Born in New York, Rakowitz now lives and works in Chicago where he is also a professor of art theory and practice at Northwestern University. In 1995 he received his BFA at Purchase College before attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to earn his Masters of Science in Visual Studies. He has exhibited in a number of museums and galleries around the world and was one of the artists who withdrew from the 2019 edition of the Whitney Biennale in protest. Most recently, he has been the focus of a retrospective that opened this year at London’s Whitechapel Gallery, which will travel to the Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Art in 2020.
The jury for the 2020 edition of the prize consisted of artist Phyllida Barlow, Guggenheim Curator at Large, Latin America Pablo León de la Barra, director of the Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Art Contemporanea Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, senior curator of the National Gallery of Art in DC Lynne Cooke, art historian and critic Briony Fer, MAXXI artistic director Hou Hanru, chief curator of Tokyo’s Museum of Contemporary Art Yuko Hasegawa, and chairman of Arts Council England Nicholas Serota. Past Nasher Prize winners include Isa Genzken (2019), Theaster Gates (2018), Pierre Huyghe (2017), and Doris Salcedo (2016).
‘Michael Rakowitz’s work bridges, on the one hand, social sculpture—what we’ve come to call relational aesthetics—and embodied material work on sculpture, with a great sense of humor and a great sense of empathy,’ said Christov-Bakargiev in the announcement. ‘Michael’s work is about healing and about how to take the problem of cultural destruction and transform that into a resource for a very optimistic vision of the reconstruction of our society.’