The 2019 Nomura Art Award Jury: Max Hollein, Yuko Hasegawa, Doryun Chong, Kathy Halbreich, Allan Schwartzman, and Nicholas Serota. Photo: Nomura Holdings, Inc.

Japanese Financial Services Group Establishes $1 Million Award for Contemporary Art

Nomura Holdings, Inc., a Japanese financial services group, announced today that it has established a $1 million prize for contemporary art, making it the largest monetary award in the industry. The annual Nomura Art Award will recognize an artist who has “created a body of work of major cultural significance.” The inaugural prize winner will be announced in October.

The accolade, whose amount far surpasses those of the contemporary art world’s most prestigious prizes—including the Turner Prize, which is only $33,000; the Hugo Boss and Future Generation Prizes, which both award $100,000; and ArtPrize, which gives out up to $200,000 to individual artists—was conceived to help an established artist realize an ambitious project. In addition, the company, which is headquartered in Tokyo, will present two annual emerging artist awards that will each have a purse of $100,000. The recipients of these prizes will be revealed at a press conference in Kyoto on March 21.  

Commenting on the prize, Allan Schwartzman, the founder and principal of Art Agency, Partners and chairman of the Fine Arts Division of Sotheby’s, told Artforum that the initiative was born out of the company’s desire to support the arts in a meaningful and innovative way. Nomura first approached Sotheby’s about a year ago and asked the auction house to advise on how to launch the award.

“From the beginning, this has been a process of great interaction and active dialogue about how best to deploy substantial funds,” Schwartzman said. “We considered several different means of funding and ultimately Nomura was most inspired by the idea of bestowing acknowledgement upon significant artists at both mature and emerging stages, and in ways that would not be simply symbolic but that could have substantial impact on an artist’s production and life.”

Schwartzman will serve on the 2019 prize’s jury alongside Doryun Chong, deputy director, curatorial, and chief curator at M+ in Hong Kong; Kathy Halbreich, executive director of the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation; Yuko Hasegawa, artistic director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; Max Hollein, director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; and Nicholas Serota, chair of Arts Council England. The late curator, critic, and author Okwui Enwezor, who passed away last week, was also asked to be on the jury.

“In the inaugural year of an award for which there is no clear precedent, the role of the jury is critical to interpreting the guidelines in ways that are vital, and to articulate for future juries the best manifestations of the spirit of the award,” Schwartzman said. He also noted that those involved with the initiative “hope that Nomura’s foresight may lead the way for other corporations and individuals to support the arts in a variety of ways that have direct impact on artists, the work they make, and scale and scope of their ambitions and capacity to fulfill them.”

Founded in 1925 by Tokushichi Nomura II, the first son of a money changer in Osaka, Nomura is the largest retail network in Japan and was the first Japanese company to become a member of the New York Stock Exchange in 1981. According to the company, Tokushichi Nomura II was an avid practitioner of the tea ceremony and supporter of Noh theater. The award was, in part, created in honor of his spirit as well as to further the company’s engagement with the arts. It is cosponsored by Nomura Research Institute, Ltd. and Nomura Real Estate Holdings, Inc.