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Michael Morgner Wins Inaugural Schmidt-Rottluff Art Prize

The German painter, sculptor, and graphic artist Michael Morgner has been awarded the first Schmidt-Rottluff Art Prize, a biennial award that recognizes the life work of a contemporary artist. Upon receiving it at a ceremony in his hometown of Chemnitz on March 9, seventy-five-year-old Morgner said that he felt “incredibly honored.”

The $25,000 monetary prize also includes a commemorative publication that features photographs and essays by the artist’s friends. “I hope they were not forced,” Morgner joked. “Perhaps there should be a second volume for those who do not like me.”

Morgner is known for his large-scale abstract paintings, his ambivalent relationship with so-called German Democratic Republic art (the art of former East Germany), and his pugnacious spirit. Prior to the awards ceremony, he stated, “I have the misfortune to be considered a GDR artist.” According to the artist, there is no GDR art, but only good and bad art.

Born in Chemnitz in 1942, when the city was called Karl-Marx-Stadt, Morgner studied at the Academy of Visual Arts in Leipzig in 1961. In 1973 he was one of the founders of the Galerie Oben, and he later formed the artist group Clara Mosch. In 1991, Morgner cofounded the Saxon Academy of Arts in Dresden and the Free Academy of the Arts in Leipzig, and from 2003 to 2007, he held a visiting professorship at the International Summer Academy of Fine Arts in Salzburg.

The Schmidt-Rottluff Art Prize is awarded by a private foundation that was established in 2015 by the entrepreneurs Sonja and Jürgen Oehlschläger. It is named after the late Expressionist painter Karl Schmidt-Rottluff.