Francis Alÿs

Martin Gropius-Bau/Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg

Francis Alÿs was recently named the first recipient of the new blueOrange Prize, and much to the surprise of its funders, the German Cooperative Banks, he announced that he was donating his 70,000 Euro purse to an aid organization for homeless children in his Mexico City neighborhood. It’s an act typical of the artist—a beau geste, to use his own terminology—ducking the pressure of the prize and denying the institution its expected role in funding further art while still celebrating and making use of the reward in an artful way. To be a conduit and switching station between art and daily life: This is Alÿs’s modus operandi and the key to his elusive body of work.

The prize also came with an accompanying exhibition at the Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin. During its opening, a lone hammock hung in the center of the immense, dim, and otherwise empty atrium, alerting visitors that, for

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