THE Maria Lassnig Foundation in Vienna announces the Scottish artist, Cathy Wilkes as the first winner of the Maria Lassnig Prize for 2017. The inaugural award is named after Maria Lassnig, the Austrian portrait painter renowned for her pioneering theory on body awareness. As Lassnig received recognition only later in life, the Foundation’s inaugural art prize is awarded specifically for the achievements of mid-career artists.
Cathy Wilkes is an installation artist and painter whose subject matter concerns everyday life and human experience such as motherhood, gender roles and sexuality. These assemblages recall the imagined lives of people connected with the Possil Pottery, a nineteenth century Glaswegian company that produced stoneware goods such as bottles for Tennents brewers. Poised between their time-worn household relics, the artists’ scantily clad folk cower under their tattered rags. Like treasured samplers, Wilkes’s evocative scenarios expose her frayed emotions woven falteringly within another time.
Wilkes represented her country at the Venice Biennale in 2005 and was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2008. Since presenting at a survey exhibition at the Tate Liverpool in 2015, Wilkes has exhibited at several solo shows in Chicago, Pittsburgh and Munich. Peter Eleey, MoMA PS1 chief curator explains, “Wilkes’ art enacts an exercise in empathy, exposing deeply felt subjective experiences to reach beyond herself while also insisting upon the fundamentally private nature of art making.”
As winner of the Maria Lassnig Prize, she receives 50,000 euros and the opportunity to mount a solo exhibition at the prestigious contemporary art institution, MoMA PS1 in New York. Members of this year’s inaugural Maria Lassnig Prize selection committee included Peter Eleey, MoMA PS1 Chief Curator and Peter Pakesch, Chairman of the Foundation. Other members included the curators Matthias Mühling and Hans Ulrich Obrist, Artistic Director of the Serpentine Gallery, Laura Hoptman, Curator of Painting and Sculpture, The Museum of Modern Art and Sheikha Hoor Al-Quasimi, President of the Sharjah Art Foundation and New York-based artist, Zoe Leonard.
by Miranda Charalambous
Front Page image: Maria Lassnig, June 1983, Photograph Courtesy of Kurt-Michael Westermann, Maria Lassnig Foundation