Amongst art awards that recognize artists working in various mediums there is the Robert de Niro Sr. Prize, which, unlike some, focuses on painters. Setting it apart from other awards geared towards American painters, though, is that it highlights an artist in the middle of their career. This year, New York-based artist Byron Kim has been chosen as the winner and will receive a $25,000.
Kim is perhaps best known for an ongoing series called ‘Synecdoche’ which he began in 1991, was featured in the 1993 Whitney Biennial, and he continues to work with today. The series consists panels that Kim painted to reflect various skin tones. To date, ‘Synecdoche’ consists of hundreds of ten by eight-inch panels that are hung side by side creating a patchwork of skin tones. Sitters for the series include friends, family members, fellow artists, and neighbours of Kim’s and each panel is accompanied by the full name of his subjects.
Born in 1961, Kim held a mid-career survey, titled ‘Threshold,’ in 2006 and 2007, which travelled to seven international locations including the Berkeley Art Museum in California. In addition to solo exhibitions, Kim’s works have been included in a number of group shows at institutions like the Museum of Modern Art. Currently, and exhibition of works by Kim, called ‘The Sunday Paintings,’ is on at the Cleveland Museum of Contemporary Art. Kim is also a senior critic for Yale University, where he received his BA as well.
When Kim got the call informing him that he’d won this year’s award, he told ARTnews that ‘it was really surprising.’ Kim said he believed he was getting the call to be a juror for the award instead. In a statement about the award, Robert de Niro, the American actor and son of de Niro Sr., said: ‘Byron Kim’s dedication to his art and his deep commitment to teaching resonates with my father’s own commitment. I am therefore especially pleased with the selection committee’s choice this year as it truly honors my father’s memory.’ For Kim, the prize is particularly significant as he has found inspiration in and a connection to de Niro’s artworks.
The Robert de Niro Sr. Prize was begun in 2011 by Robert de Niro to honour his late father. The award is given annually to an artist nominated by a selection committee. The prize is based on the merit of the artist and administered by the Tribeca Film Institute.
This year, Carmen Hermo, associate curator at the Brooklyn Museum’s Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, Norman Kleeblatt, former head curator of New York’s Jewish Museum, and William S. Smith, editor of Art in America sat on the jury for the 2019 edition of the Robert de Niro Sr. Prize. Kim joins previous winners Henry Taylor (2018), R.H. Quaytman (2016), Laura Owens (2015), Robert Owens (2014), Catherine Murphy (2013), Joyce Pensato (2012), and Stanley Whitney (2011).
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