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Outside the Conflictorium. Center: Avni Sethi. Photo: Conflictorium Archives.
Outside the Conflictorium. Center: Avni Sethi. Photo: Conflictorium Archives.

Avni Sethi Wins Vera List Center’s Jane Lombard Prize for Art and Social Justice

The Vera List Center for Art and Politics at New York’s New School has named Avni Sethi as the recipient of the 2020–2022 Jane Lombard Prize for Art and Social Justice. Sethi was awarded the $25,000 prize for Conflictorium, a participatory museum of conflict she founded in 2013 in the city of Ahmedabad in Gujarat, India. The decision was reached unanimously by a jury chaired by Candice Hopkins and comprising Ivet Curlin, Natasha Ginwala, Carin Kuoni, Tamara Oyola-Santiago, and Shuddhabrata Sengupta.

The Jane Lombard 2020–2022 fellows, all finalists for the prize, include Jorge González for Escuela de Oficios, a collective and platform focused on amplifying marginalized Boricua (Puerto Rican) culture; NayanTara Gurung Kakshapati for Nepal Picture Library, a digital photo archive and public engagement initiative dedicated to preserving Nepali social and cultural history; Emeka Okereke for Invisible Borders Trans-African Photographers Organization, a collective best known for their continental road trips that explore the colonial legacies and misconceptions of Africa through photography and other arts; and techno music collective Underground Resistance for Submerge, the storied Detroit-based distribution company and record shop.

By integrating law, art, culture, and science, Conflictorium seeks to facilitate community-led solutions to violence through exhibitions, workshops, and film screenings as well as policy. “Deeply embedded in the surrounding communities of Ahmedabad, Conflictorium is opening up histories of individual and collective trauma and holding space for challenging and difficult conversations,” the jury said in a statement. “The museum operates within a complicated political context and is an intellectual and ethical sanctuary in the region—particularly at a time when democracy and basic human rights, including religious freedoms, are under attack, in Gujarat, and elsewhere in the world.” Sethi, who is trained as an interdisciplinary designer and dancer, will bring Conflictorium to New York via an exhibition slated for 2021.

Previous winners of the Jane Lombard Prize for Art and Social Justice include the pan-African platform Chimurenga, Chicago-based artist Theaster Gates, and the Brazilian artist Maria Thereza Alves. The Vera List Center renamed its biennial prize in 2018 to honor gallerist Jane Lombard, who donated $5 million to the institution in 2018.