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Pierre Alechinsky and Fujiko Nakaya Among Recipients of Japanese Praemium Imperiale Awards

The Praemium Imperiale award, an annual global arts prize presented by the Japan Art Association since 1989, has named this year’s five laureates, who will each receive 15 million yen, roughly $133,500. The Praemium Imperiale recognizes artists working in the fields of theater or film, music, painting, sculpture, and architecture.

Born in Brussels in 1927, Pierre Alechinsky, who recently became a French citizen, received the prize in painting. A founding member of the 1940’s Cobra group, Alechinsky organized the collective’s exhibitions and edited its eponymous magazine. He’s been featured in solo exhibitions at institutions such as the Palais des beaux-arts, Brussels; the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Centre Pompidou, Paris; and the Guggenheim Museum, New York. A major survey of his work was held last year at the National Museum of Art in Osaka.

Japanese artist Fujiko Nakaya was awarded the prize in sculpture. She is best known as the first artist to use fog as a medium. In 1970, at the Osaka World Expo she produced the world’s first “fog sculpture” by engulfing the Pepsi Pavilion in an immense veil of fog. In the 1980s and ‘90s she gained international recognition as a video artist and advocate of the alternative arts, but she continued to create fog sculptures and installations in Japan, Australia, the United States, and Europe. Commenting on her work, the artist said, “I create a scene so that nature can express itself within. I am a sculptor of fog, but I do not attempt to shape it. The atmosphere is the mould, the wind—the burin.” The first large-scale retrospective of her work will be held at Art Tower Mito in Ibaraki, Japan, this fall.

Catherine Deneuve (theatre/film), Riccardo Muti (music) and Christian de Portzamparc (architecture) were the other Praemium Imperiale award winners.