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Artist Isa Genzken Wins $100,000 Nasher Prize

The Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas announced that German artist Isa Genzken has been named the recipient of its 2019 Nasher Prize for her contributions to sculpture. She will be presented with $100,000 as well as an award designed by architect Renzo Piano, who designed the Nasher Sculpture Center, at a ceremony on April 6, 2019.

“We’d be hard pressed to name an artist with a more textured and dynamic sculptural practice than Isa Genzken,” said Nasher director Jeremy Strick. “Her work not only straddles an array of forms that complicate and enrich our understanding of sculpture, she also consistently challenges the way an artist’s career and oeuvre might look, breaking apart the notion of specialization within an individual studio practice.”

With a career spanning four decades, Genzken is credited with continually reinventing the language of sculpture, creating objects inspired by popular culture and historic events, such as the traumas and aftermath of World War II, that explore the complexities of contemporary realism. Born in Bad Oldesloe, Germany, in 1948, Genzken studied fine arts, art history, and philosophy in Hamburg, Berlin, and Cologne, before completing her studies at Kunstakademie Düsseldorf in 1977. She currently lives and works in Berlin.

Genzken’s work—spanning photography, filmmaking, drawing, painting, and sculpture, and collag—has been featured in major museum exhibitions, including traveling surveys organized by the Rheinisches Landesmuseum Bonn, Germany; the Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago; and Whitechapel Gallery, London; and solo shows at venues such as Galerie im Taxispalais, Innsbruck, Austria; Secession, Vienna; and Museion, Bolzano, Italy. Her work has been exhibited several editions of Documenta (1982, 1992, and 2002), Skulptur Projekte Münster (1987, 1997, and 2007), and the Venice Biennale (1982, 1993, 2003, 2007, and 2015). 

In 2013, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, in collaboration with the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and the Dallas Museum of Art, presented Genzken’s first American museum survey, which showcased work dating back to the mid-1970s. More recently, her twenty-six-foot-tall sculpture of a flower, Rose III, 2016, was permanently installed in Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan earlier this month. The piece joins works by Mark di Suvero and Seward Johnson.

The prize’s jury comprised artists Phyllida Barlow and Huma Bhabha; Pablo León de la Barra, curator at large of Latin America at the Guggenheim Museum; Lynne Cooke, senior curator at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC; Okwui Enwezor, the former director of the Haus der Kunst; Briony Fer, a professor of History of Art at the University College London; Yuko Hasegawa, chief curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo; Hou Hanru, artistic director of MAXXI, Rome; and Nicholas Serota, chair of the Arts Council England.

Commenting on the artist’s practice, Barlow said: “Genzken makes work that retains its spontaneity right to the last. She uses an extraordinarily diverse range of materials and forms, so there is a continuous unpredictability as to what the next body of work might and can be. The work is always evolving and therefore her influence is exceptional on artists of all ages.”