The Sotheby's Prize

By Sotheby's

The inaugural Sotheby’s Prize has been awarded to two upcoming exhibitions that explore underrepresented areas of art history.
Many Tongues: Art, Language, and Revolution in the Middle East and South Asia  (Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago)
Pop América, 1965-1975  (Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University)
The Prize will be shared, with each exhibition receiving $125,000.


In addition to the two Prize winners, the jury has also commended three remarkable upcoming exhibitions with an award of $10,000 each. These are:
Ree Morton: The Plant That Heals May Also Poison at the ‪Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia (September-December 2018)
– Augusta Savage: Artist-Community-Activist at the Cummer Museum in Jacksonville, Florida (October 2018-April 2019)
Native North America at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas (October 2018-January 2019)

Click here to read more about the exhibitions. To read the full press release click here.


The Sotheby’s Prize is an annual award to support and encourage museums to break new ground. The grant aims to recognize curatorial excellence, and to facilitate exhibitions that explore overlooked or under-represented areas of art history at a time when such projects are becoming increasingly difficult to fund and develop.

This year’s nominees and inaugural winners were determined by a jury of esteemed art world figures representing a broad spectrum of cultures and disciplines, namely: Sir Nicholas Serota (Chair, Arts Council England), Connie Butler (Chief Curator at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles), Okwui Enwezor (Director of the Haus der Kunst museum in Munich), Donna de Salvo (Senior Curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York), and Allan Schwartzman (Co-creator of the Prize and Chairman and Executive Vice President of Sotheby’s). For more biographical information on each, please see below.

The Jury

Connie Butler

Connie Butler is the Chief Curator at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles where she has organized numerous exhibitions including Made in LA (2014); Mark Bradford: Scorched Earth (2015) and Marisa Merz: The Sky Is a Great Space which will open in June, 2017. Previously Ms Butler was The Robert Lehman Foundation Chief Curator of Drawings at The Museum of Modern Art (2006-2013), where she co-curated the first major Lygia Clark retrospective in North America. Additionally, she co-organized the exhibitions Alina Szapocznikow: Sculpture Undone 1955-1972 (2011) and On Line: Drawing through the Twentieth Century at MoMA (2010), and co-curated the survey Greater New York (2010) at MoMA PS1. She is the co-editor of Modern Women: Women Artists at the Museum of Modern Art, a groundbreaking examination of works by modern and contemporary women artists in MOMA's collection. From 1996–2006 she served as curator at MOCA, Los Angeles where she organized the internationally acclaimed exhibition WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution (2007). Ms Butler is currently a curator for Adrian Piper: A Synthesis of Intuitions, the artist’s first North American retrospective that will open at MOMA and travel to the Hammer Museum in fall 2019.






Donna De Salvo

Donna De Salvo joined the Whitney in 2004 and was appointed the museum’s first Chief Curator in 2006, a post she held until 2015. As Chief Curator and Deputy Director for Programs, Ms De Salvo oversaw the museum’s artistic program, was instrumental in the design of the Whitney’s new building, and led the curatorial team for the museum’s inaugural presentation, America Is Hard to See (2015).    

With the opening of the new building, Ms De Salvo assumed the role of Deputy Director for International Initiatives and Senior Curator, and is leading the museum’s efforts to define and communicate an expanded notion of art in the United States, both domestically and internationally, through artistic and education programs and other initiatives. In addition, she organizes exhibitions and collection displays, co-directs the Painting and Sculpture Acquisition Committee, and oversees the Andy Warhol films catalogue raisonné project. Recent exhibitions she has curated or co-curated include: Hélio Oiticica: To Organize Delirium (2017), Open Plan: Michael Heizer (2016), and Open Plan: Steve McQueen (2016). Presently, she is working on a thematic retrospective of the work of Andy Warhol, scheduled to open at the Whitney in November 2018. Notable past thematic exhibitions include: Open Systems: Rethinking Art c. 1970 (2005), Tate Modern; Hand-Painted Pop: American art in Transition, 1955-62 (1992), MOCA, Los Angeles; A Museum Looks at Itself (1995), The Parrish Art Museum; and Success is a Job in New York: The Early art and Business of Andy Warhol (1989), Grey Art Gallery, NYU.     

Ms De Salvo has organized exhibitions of the work of Robert Irwin, Roni Horn, Lawrence Weiner, Anish Kapoor, Gerhard Richter, Ed Ruscha, John Chamberlain, Barbara Kruger, Barnett Newman, and Cy Twombly, amongst others, and has lectured and written on modern and contemporary artists and cultural subjects. She has served as senior curator at Tate Modern; Curator-at-Large, Wexner Center for the Arts; Adjunct Curator, The Andy Warhol Museum; Robert Lehman Curator, The Parrish Art Museum; and Curator, Dia Art Foundation. She is a recipient of the Alfred H. Barr Jr. Award from the College Art Association.  

Okwui Enwezor

Since his 1996 breakthrough as a curator of In/Sight: African Photographers, 1940 to Present, an exhibit of 30 African photographers at the Guggenheim Museum, Enwezor has alternated between ambitious  international exhibitions that seek to define their moment – biennials in Johannesburg, Gwangju and beyond, along with the Paris Triennale in 2012—and historically driven, encyclopedic museum shows centered on topics such as African liberation movements in the 20th century, the arc of apartheid and the use of archive material in contemporary art. Enwezor is the first curator of his generation and the second ever to command two of Europe's most precious cultural territories – Documenta 11, the five-yearly exhibition in Kassel, Germany, and, most recently, the last the Venice Biennale – and the first African to direct either one. Enwezor has curated numerous exhibitions in many other distinguished museums around the world, including Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Guggenheim Museum, Tate Modern and Museum of Contemporary Art, Barcelona, to name a few. In 2016-2017, Enwezor   directed Postwar Art between the Pacific and Atlantic, 1945-1965, a major exhibition at the Haus der Kunst exploring the complex histories of art of the postwar era, examining the vibrant and turbulent  postwar period as a global phenomenon in which artistic perspectives were intertwined with social, political, cultural, and technological interests. As a writer, critic, and editor, Enwezor has been a regular contributor to numerous exhibition catalogues, anthologies, and journals. He is founding editor and publisher of the critical art journal NKA: Journal of Contemporary African Art.



Allan Schwartzman

Allan Schwartzman is a Founder and Principal of Art Agency, Partners and Chairman, Co-Leader of the Fine Art Division of Sotheby’s. He brings to the company more than 15 years’ experience in advising some of the world’s most influential and sophisticated collectors in forming their holdings of contemporary art, both individually and in conjunction with their stewardship of major museums.  

Schwartzman is also widely respected as an independent curator, most notably for Instituto Inhotim, the visionary contemporary art park set within a 5,000-acre botanical garden in Brazil. As Creative Director and Chief Curator of Inhotim, he has been central to developing the collection of the renowned institution and commissioning its signature site-specific works by artists including Chris Burden, Giuseppe Penone, Matthew Barney, Doris Salcedo, Doug Aitken, Rivane Neuenschwander, Olafur Eliasson, and Rirkrit Tiravanija, including projects that could not have been realized anywhere else.  

Known equally as a tastemaker in contemporary art and an authority on the art market, Schwartzman is a frequent guest speaker and panelist at The Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, Art Basel, and notable events around the world.  

Trained as an art historian with a B.A. from Vassar College, Schwartzman was a founding staff member of the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City and served as curator from 1977 to 1980. He has written extensively about art for publications including The New Yorker, The New York Times, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, Artforum and Art in America and was a contributing editor of Connoisseur. He served as a board member of Franklin Furnace from 1980 to 2000 and currently serves on the Board of Artists Space, one of New York’s premier alternative spaces, having also served as the board’s President.

Sir Nicholas Serota 

Sir Nicholas Serota has been Director of Tate since 1988 and will leave the Gallery at the end of May 2017. During this period Tate has opened Tate St Ives (1993) and Tate Modern (2000 and extension 2016), redefining the Millbank building as Tate Britain (2000). Tate has also broadened its field of interest to include twentieth-century photography, film, performance and occasionally architecture, as well as collecting from Latin America, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Since 2010, the national role of the Gallery has been further developed with the creation of the Plus Tate network of 35 institutions across the UK and Northern Ireland.   

Between 1976 and 1988 he was Director of the Whitechapel Art Gallery where he curated numerous exhibitions including Robert Ryman (1977), Carl Andre (1978), Gerhard Richter, Eva Hesse (1979), Max Beckmann: The Triptychs (1980), Anselm Kiefer (1980), Philip Guston (1982), Georg Baselitz (1980 and 1983), Bruce Nauman (1987). In recent years he has curated or co-curated exhibitions of Donald Judd (2004), Howard Hodgkin (2006) Cy Twombly (2008), Gerhard Richter (2011) and Matisse: The Cut-Outs (2014).  

Sir Nicholas Serota has been a member of the Visual Arts Advisory Committee of the British Council, a Trustee of the Architecture Foundation and a commissioner on the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment.  He was a member of the Olympic Delivery Authority which was responsible for building the Olympic Park in East London for 2012. He is a member of the Board of the BBC and has recently become Chair of Arts Council England.



What is the Sotheby’s Prize?
The Sotheby’s Prize is intended to support and encourage museums to break new ground. With a maximum value of $250,000, it will fund thought-provoking museum exhibitions and curatorial initiatives, the types of exhibitions that are ever more important in shaping our understanding of art but that are becoming increasingly difficult for museums to fund. 

Who can apply for the Sotheby’s Prize?
The Sotheby’s Prize is available to institutions, curators and museum directors worldwide with ambitions to realize trailblazing, landscape-changing, projects in the cultural field.

How do I apply for the Sotheby’s Prize?
You must submit a completed application form no later than 9am (EST) on July 24 2017. The application form can be downloaded here. Completed application forms should be emailed to Upon submission you will receive an acknowledgement that your application has been received.

Is there a deadline by which the exhibition must be realized?
There is no fixed deadline by which the exhibition must be realized. However, the jury will assess the viability of each proposal, meaning it will have to be fully thought through in terms of timeline, budget, loans, etc.

Can I apply for an exhibition already in the planning?
Yes, for the first year we welcome applications from exhibitions that are already in the process of being organized.

Is the prize only available to exhibitions of Contemporary art?
The Prize is open to exhibitions of art from all periods and geographies. However, given the expertise of the inaugural jury members, we anticipate that the majority of applications in the first year will come from exhibitions of twentieth century art.

What is required for the application?
The application consists of five sections. A one-page summary of the proposed exhibition; a status report on the exhibition, indicating how far along it is in the planning; the amount of funding required; an exhibition budget; and a letter(s) of support from the director of the institution hosting the exhibition.

What is the deadline for application?
The deadline for applications is 9am (EST) on July 24. What happens after I submit my application? Upon submission you will receive an email acknowledgement that your application has been received. You will be notified after 24 July of whether your proposal will move into the next phase. The jury will make its final decision in early September and you will be notified of their decision by 15 September 2017.

Who will select the winner?
The winner will be selected by a jury comprising of Sir Nicholas Serota (Chair, Arts Council England), Connie Butler (Chief Curator at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles), Okwui Enwezor (Director of the Haus der Kunst museum in Munich) and Donna de Salvo (Senior Curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York). The jury will be chaired by Allan Schwartzman (Chairman of the Fine Art Division of Sotheby’s).

How often is the Sotheby’s Prize awarded?
The Sotheby’s Prize is awarded annually.

What do I do if I have further questions?
Please email with any further questions.


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