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Timm Ulrichs. Photo: Ansgar Schnurr.
Timm Ulrichs. Photo: Ansgar Schnurr.

Timm Ulrichs Wins 2020 Käthe Kollwitz Prize

Conceptual artist Timm Ulrichs has been named the winner of the 2020 Käthe Kollwitz Prize. Presented by the Akademie der Künste in Berlin, the annual award of more than $13,000 has been honoring the work of visual artists every year since 1960. Ulrichs will receive the prize during a ceremony that will take place on January 23, the day before an exhibition featuring his work opens at the Academy.

Born on March 31, 1940 in Berlin, Ulrichs studied architecture at the Technical University in Hanover and worked as an adjunct professor at the Kunstakademie in Münster and at the Staatliche Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Braunschweig. In 1959, Ulrichs founded the Advertising Agency for Total Art, Banalism, and Extemporaneity in Hanover, where he lived and worked. He defined “total art,” which is how he described his creative output, as art that “knows no boundaries in regards to genre and encompasses diverse disciplines that serve to get to the bottom of human existence.”

Throughout his career, Ulrichs staged performances and actions, created object art, and dabbled in concrete poetry. In 1961, he displayed himself inside a glass box and determined that he was the “first living artwork.” His first retrospective was held in Krefeld, Germany, in 1977, and that same year he participated in Documenta 6 in Kassel. A major retrospective of his work was mounted at the Kunstverein Hannover and Sprengel Museum Hannover in 2010.

The prize jury, which consisted of Akademie der Künste members Ute Eskildsen, Wulf Herzogenrath, and Gregor Schneider, said that Ulrichs’s “wealth of ideas will be shown long overdue appreciation” in the upcoming exhibition. “Ulrichs is an artist, former university teacher, and critical observer of the scene, who has lived a non-conformist existence outside of the mainstream and the art market. His political action serves as an example to a younger generation.”

Previous winners of the prize include Hito Steyerl (2019), Adrian Piper (2018), Katharina Sieverding (2017), Edmund Kuppel (2016), and Bernard Frize (2015).