Magazine article UNESCO Courier

The UNESCO Prize for the Promotion of the Arts

Magazine article UNESCO Courier

The UNESCO Prize for the Promotion of the Arts

Article excerpt

In 1993, on the initiative of the Japanese painter Kaii Higashiyama, Unesco created an international prize for contemporary art. Awarded biennially, and known as the UNESCO Prize for the Promotion of the Arts, it is intended to encourage young artists all over the world in such fields as painting, the graphic arts, drama, dance and music.

In 1993 the prize went to a number of artists working in new technologies (including video and photography), painting (including drawing and the graphic arts) end sculpture (including "installations", works that explore the relationship between people and their environment, and "Land Art", in which the artist works in and with nature).

Thirty-seven artists were pre-selected from almost 300 candidates Five winners were chosen, and four other candidates received honorary mentions. Charlotte Gyllenhammar (Sweden) and Osman (Turkey) shared the prize for sculpture. The prize winners in the new technologies section were Susan Gamble (United Kingdom) and Michael Wenyon (United States). Felim Egan (Ireland) won the award for painting.

The works of the thirty-seven pre-selected candidates are featured in a catalogue that has recently been published by UNESCO'S Division of the Arts and Cultural Life. While the selection does not pretend to provide a panorama of contemporary art worldwide, it does give what the president of the jury, Pontus Hulten, calls "a good general view of the situation and production of young artists in the world today".

The overriding impression is one of a quest that is both familiar and new. Familiar, because it continues the path marked out at the beginning of the century towards freedom and non-conformity in the act of creation. New, because it delves even deeper into the realm of invention.

Zodiac, a work by the prizewinners in the new technologies section, blends elements of traditional art-forms (sculpture, theatre and painting) in a new aesthetic, while creating on a symbolical level a synthesis between tradition and innovation. An easel, the time-honoured tool of the painter's trade, stands in the middle of a room that reminds us of a floodlit stage. It does not support a canvas but a shimmering horizontal bar which, although it seems tangible and "real", is actually pure illusion. …

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