PREIS DER NATIONALGALERIE 2017
Artists: Agnieszka Polska, Jumana Manna, Sol Calero, Iman Issa
In autumn 2017, the Nationalgalerie will award its biannual prize for the ninth time. Every two years, four artists under age 40, resident and active in Germany, are nominated for the prize. The international jury has just announced its selection. The four artists nominated for the prize are: Sol Calero (born 1982 in Caracas), Iman Issa (born 1979 in Cairo), Jumana Manna (born 1987 in Princeton) and Agnieszka Polska (born 1985 in Lublin). The Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin will present the work of these four Berlin-based artists in a group exhibition.
The practices of this year’s nominees reflect not only the broad international spectrum of the art scene in Germany. Producing work spanning several media at once, all four artists are not just engaged in a purely artistic discourse, but rather use their work to reflect social processes. Their work is not only distinguished by an eye for precision, but also a personal view that incorporates social and political aspects into artistic work, as a means of commenting on them.
On 20 October 2017, a second jury will determine the winner of this year’s prize. The winner gets to hold a solo exhibition at one of the divisions of the Nationalgalerie in 2018, for which an accompanying publication is produced.
Sol Calero – born in Caracas in 1982, lives in Berlin) she conflates painting and sculpture to create hybrid installation spaces that operate as social environments and zones of contact. Her playful approach is nuanced with art historical and cultural knowledge by expertly drawing references ranging from Henri Matisse to the Latin American avant-garde and Caribbean style tropical modernism. Her all-encompassing environments trick us into becoming participants instead of remaining detached visitors and turn the process of reception into a pleasurable yet also provoking experience. This seduction goes hand in hand with a reshaping of our state of mind. Gradually, cultural stereotypes and issues from the colonial legacy seep through her exaggeratedly colorful environments that play on an excessive imagery of the “tropical.” She thus works, as she puts it, “through, rather than against the coded cultural vocabulary of the cliché.” Sol Calero was chosen by the jury for her uniquely crafted aesthetic that encourages the audience to consider an artwork’s spatial dimension and its social function as a whole. Calero brings tropical style to cultural life in Berlin in complex ways, thereby addressing and interrogating established structures that shape and structure society.
Iman Issa – (born in Cairo in 1979, lives in New York City and Berlin) she engages in a complex conceptual practice, working across the media of sculpture, photography, text, and video. Her artistic approach is based on the history of art, monuments, and memorials, an interest in their aesthetic and political construction and the attempt to reorient their meaning. Immaculately crafted and often using a unique minimalist language, her sculptures are frequently accompanied by text that becomes an integral part of the work. With precision and insistence, her enigmatic works address the power of display and undertake a tentative decolonization of art history and cultural history, addressing the power structures of representation that remain largely unquestioned to this day.
The jury selected Iman Issa because each of her artistic works and continuing series is an embodiment of the artist’s belief in the power of objects and, more specifically, of their complex eloquence. Her works radiate multifaceted meaning without focusing on a singular narration. Her poetic and philosophical approach remains unique in the charting of a contemporary minimal and conceptual artistic vocabulary, readily responding to a range of international contexts and the texture of history.
Jumana Manna – (born in Princeton in 1987, lives and works in Berlin) Jumana Manna, who studied at Jerusalem’s Bezalel Academy, the National Academy of Arts in Oslo, and LA’s CalArts, has created an oeuvre in film and sculpture that is both strong and precise. Her films and her sculptural installations are far from mute; they have a strong narrative component. Although addressing a political level, Manna’s way of storytelling always takes a personal angle, providing her with the capacity to address grave subjects with an individual and humorous approach. In face of the constant outbreak of emergency situations around the world, she strives for an inclusive language and succeeds in taking a stand without pointing a finger. Jumana Manna was chosen by the jury because she addresses, often allegorically and through self-conceived dramaturgy and character play, the urgent political concerns of our present, while challenging master narratives that perpetuate violence amidst communities. Although far from remaining neutral and detached, she succeeds in being neither judgmental nor superficial, but subtle in her approach.
Agnieszka Polska – (born in Lublin in 1985, lives and works in Berlin) Uncanny and often dream-like might be the first adjectives coming to mind when viewing the films, animation-based works and photography of Agnieszka Polska. Her iconography, often drawing from the historical avant-garde and from historical events, is strong and captivating, using the resources of archives, old photographs, words and texts of all kinds, or the artificial look of digital media. Without easily decipherable narration, she addresses and questions the processes of constructing history and its influence upon society. Often conceiving absurd and humorous stories that capture an intimate message on contemporary reality, her engagement with her subject matter is infused with an awareness that history is a matter of discourse, not of facts, and is only ever accessible through the present. On this basis, however, the themes Polska addresses and the image material she draws from are as complex as they are diverse. The jury chose Agnieszka Polska for both the versatility and conciseness of her filmic language.