T he Sotheby’s Prize grew from our belief that a great museum exhibition captures public imagination and changes the way we see the world. In recent years museum shows have increasingly focused on celebrated names and artists already familiar to the public. These are important shows that we all enjoy; they generate revenue through ticket and catalogue sales, merchandising, and private and corporate sponsorship, and they further cement the legacies of great artists.
Museums also want to break new ground and broaden our understanding. Ideas for the kinds of exhibitions that do this are not in short supply. Rather, it is hard to procure the financial support necessary to develop and realise these ideas. We feel it is important, now more than ever, when museum funding is under threat, to help museums turn some of these ideas into reality.
We consulted a number of leading museum directors, curators and grant-makers across the globe, all of whom echoed our thinking and reaffirmed the urgency of the idea. At a time when innovative and ground-breaking projects are becoming increasingly difficult to fund and develop, this kind of support is more important than ever.
“It used to be said that all the great art was made in Paris until 1945 and then in New York from 1945 until the present. What we now realise is that some very, very interesting work has been made elsewhere in Europe, across the Middle East and North Africa, Latin America, Asia.”Sir Nicholas Serota, Sotheby’s Prize juror
That is why we founded the Sotheby’s Prize, to help museums break new ground and to facilitate exhibitions that explore overlooked or underrepresented areas of art history. Each year we award up to $250,000, as well as commendations of $10,000 to other exhibitions.
In 2019 the Sotheby’s Prize is entering its third year, and already we have awarded nearly $600,000 in funding. Sotheby’s is proud to support museums in this way, encouraging and facilitating innovation, and working with them, not only via the Prize but also via the Preferred programme and our Museum Services, to entertain, inform and challenge audiences around the world.