C olombian artist Doris Salcedo has been awarded the inaugural $1 million Nomura Art Award, earning her the biggest cash prize in contemporary art. The award, founded by Japanese financial services group Nomura and presented in October, is given to “an artist who has created a body of work of major cultural significance,” with the winnings going towards a new project they would not otherwise be able to complete.
In Salcedo’s case, the money will contribute to the continuation of her ongoing series Acts of Mourning, which comprises large-scale, ephemeral installations and sculptures that memorialize victims of the Colombian civil war, often made in collaboration with the public. The award will help her launch the work in the northeastern city of Cúcuta and the nearby town of Juan Frio, places where a right-wing paramilitary group committed terrible acts of violence.
"Her capacity to convert politically complex and urgent issues into potent and poetic objects and large-scale works is extraordinary."
The Nomura Art Award is decided by an independent and international jury, which this year included executive director of the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Kathy Halbreich, chair of Arts Council England Nicholas Serota, the late curator and critic Okwui Enwezor, and Allan Schwartzman, founder and principal of Art Agency, Partners, and chairman of the Fine Arts Division of Sotheby’s.
“There are many worthy artists for this prize, [but] we felt Doris embodied the spirit of it in a singular way,” says Schwartzman. “Her capacity to convert politically complex and urgent issues into potent and poetic objects and large-scale works is extraordinary. It brings voice to people who have suffered as a result of all kinds of political strife, and what she ends up making is so human and profound that it is universal.”