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Alfredo Jaar. Photo: The Hasselblad Foundation.
Alfredo Jaar. Photo: The Hasselblad Foundation.

Alfredo Jaar Wins 2020 Hasselblad Prize for Photography

Chilean artist Alfredo Jaar has been awarded this year’s Hasselblad Prize for Photography, which is considered one of the field’s most prestigious awards. Endowed with one million Swedish krona (approximately $106,000), the Hasselblad Prize—which is named after Victor Hasselblad, the inventor of the Hasselblad camera—will be awarded in Gothenburg, Sweden, on October 19. An exhibition of the artist’s work will open at the Hasselblad Center the following day.

“Through quiet and meditative works, Jaar confronts issues of great magnitude, bearing witness to humanitarian disasters and attesting to the impact of military conflict, political corruption, and economic inequality throughout the world,” the prize jury’s citation reads. “His photographs, films, elaborate installations, and community-based projects provocatively disturb common perceptions of reality. At the heart of his practice is what Jaar refers to as the politics of images, questioning the way we use and consume images, while pointing to the limitations of photography and the media to represent significant events.”

Born in Santiago de Chile in 1956, where he studied architecture and film, Jaar emigrated in the 1980s after the ascension of the Pinochet dictatorship, and currently lives and works in New York City. One of Jaar’s best-known and longest-running projects is the “Rwanda Project” (1994–2000), a response to the “silence, indifference, and inaction” of the world to the genocide in Rwanda that claimed over one million lives. The artist’s work has been presented in major international exhibitions, including four editions of the Venice Biennale, the São Paulo Bienal, and two iterations of Documenta. He is also a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a MacArthur Genius Grant, and the Hiroshima Art Prize.

Upon receiving the award, Jaar stated: “I feel extremely honored and proud to receive this incredible acknowledgment. I would like to express my awe and deep gratitude to the Hasselblad Foundation and some of the former recipients of this award who have taught me so much, such as Daido Moriyama, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Robert Frank, Susan Meiselas, William Klein, and Henri Cartier-Bresson. I have focused the totality of my practice on the politics of images and this generous recognition gives me the support and strength to continue my journey in these dark times.”

The Hasselblad Prize jury comprised Thyago Nogueira, head of the contemporary photography department at the Instituto Moreira Salles, Brazil; Joshua Chuang, senior curator of photography at the New York Public Library; Anna-Kaisa Rastenberger, professor of exhibition studies and spatiality at the Academy of Fine Arts, Uniarts, Finland; Laura Serani, an independent curator based in Italy and France; and Yiannis Toumazis, director of NiMAC and assistant professor at Frederick University, Cyprus.

Alfredo Jaar, The Silence of Nduwayezu, 1997, from the series the “Rwanda Project” (1994–2000).