Fame, fortune and cat food
Our sister publication The Art Newspaper Russia is giving out its much-coveted awards to art institutions and art patrons this month, while Russian Art Focus is launching its own prize for authors and academics who write about Russian art in English. In the meantime, we have put together a list of art awards that Russian artists would love to have on their CVs.
The Art Newspaper Russian Award
The country’s only monthly art publication, The Art Newspaper Russia launched its annual award in 2012. Nominees and winners are chosen by the editorial team. The award has five categories which cover sections of the newspaper: Museum of the Year, Exhibition of the Year, Book of the Year, Restoration of the Year and Personal Contribution for art patrons and collectors. The award ceremony, with lots of special effects and drama, is known for its daring dress-code, which defies the art world’s universal preference for black as guests are asked to wear red or white. Surprisingly, most go along with it as the resulting snapshots on Instagram seem to be worth the effort. As well as their moment of glory on-stage, each winner takes home a figurine designed by Russian artist Sergei Shekhovtsov (b. 1969).
This state-run award with eight categories for artists and curators and those distinguishing themselves in the field of art education was founded in 2005 and has a long and scandalous history. In 2011, the jury voted for the politically-charged action of ‘Voina Dick captured by the FSB’, where the artists had painted a giant phallus on the drawbridge in front of the FSB headquarters in St. Petersburg, the KGB’s successor. The winners donated their prize money to Agora, a Russian human-rights, non-profit organisation. Five years later, half of the board of experts resigned in protest, when the organizers prevented them from nominating Pyotr Pavlensky (b. 1984) for setting fire to the door of the FSB headquarters in Moscow. Since 2019, both the nominees’ exhibition and the award ceremony take place in Nizhny Novgorod instead of Moscow, as the local government offered to host Innovation for three years. Last year, in a gesture of support for the pandemic-stricken art industry, all nominees were announced winners and the prize money of 3,000,000 rubles (40,000 USD) was split evenly among them.
The oldest privately funded art award in Russia is the brainchild of business entrepreneur and collector Shalva Breus. Launched in 2007, the award’s heyday was in early 2010s. Once, a suburban train was hired to take the guests to the ceremony, which took place in Barvikha, an expensive suburb of Moscow. Nowadays, the winners are announced without such fanfare. Prizes used to be given out every year, however, more recently the award has transitioned to a biennial format. Confusingly, its categories still retain their original names ‘Project of the Year’ and ‘Young Artist: Project of the Year’, offering winners substantial sums of 1,800,000 (24,200 USD) and 450,000 (6000 USD) rubles respectively. The third prize is given for the best scholarly work in the field of Russian Contemporary Art. Artists can apply themselves or are nominated by institutions and the winners are chosen by the expert board and an international jury. The first round of voting by the expert board is anonymous as works are put forward without the name of the artist or the title. Vadim Zakharov (b. 1959), AES+F, Yuri Albert (b. 1959), Pavel Pepperstein (b. 1966) and Andrey Kuzkin (b. 1979) are among past winners.
Sergey Kuryokhin Contemporary Art Award
This private St. Petersburg-based award was launched in 2009 in memory of underground musician and performance artist Sergey Kuryohin (1954-1996). The award is organised by the Kuryokhin Foundation and Centre, which is run by the artist’s widow Anastasia Kuryokhina. Initially, it was aimed at musicians, but its focus soon shifted to include the visual arts. The list of categories often changes following new artistic trends, and now includes Best Media Object and Best Art & Science Project. AES+F, Alexander Shishkin Hokusai (b. 1969) and Tima Radya (b. 1988) are among past winners. Several artists, such as Andrei Bartenev (b. 1965) and Provmyza have received the award more than once. The winner of the Grand-Prix gets 250,000 rubles (3,300 USD), while winners in other categories each receive 100,000 roubles (1,300 USD). The Kuryokhin award is included among Russia’s top three awards for contemporary artists, together with the Kandinsky Prize and the Innovation Prize.
The Nova Art Contest
Living up to its nickname of the cultural capital of Russia, St. Petersburg has not one, but two private art awards. Launched in 2006 by the Anna Nova gallery, the Nova Art Contest takes place once every two years and supports artists aged 40 and under. There is a range of prizes for each of the twelve winners, from cash grants to artist residencies and solo exhibitions. Every edition of the competition has a different theme. This year it is: ‘New Skin: The Myth of the Technological Body’, while previous editions showed their muscle with mega themes like ‘(R)evolution’ and ’The Meaning of Life’. Artists can apply themselves by sending in proposals on the current theme. They only accept ideas for projects not previously shown or realised.
The Tretyakov Prize
Do not let the name mislead you, this anti-establishment prize has nothing to do with Russia’s most famous museum for national art, the State Tretyakov Gallery. Launched by a group of Moscow artists in 2018 as an alternative to the big art prizes, this award was named after one of its founders, artist Anna Tretyakova (b. 1984). The prize is entirely financed by its founders and has a democratic application procedure. There is even a category in which the winner is chosen by open popular vote on the award’s website. It is called ‘The Artist’s Set’ and the lucky winner gets a random assortment of objects like “a box of premium cigarettes, a ticket to use on the Moscow public transport, a pack of premium cat food, a box of multivitamins, etc.” Two winners in the main categories receive invitations to a month-long artist residency in Moscow Region and an opportunity to have a solo exhibition either in Moscow or at the residency.
Russian Art Focus Prize
This year, we are launching our own award for art critics, journalists, art historians and academics who write about Russian art in English. The winners are in two categories for ‘The Best Publication on Contemporary Russian Art’ and ‘The Best Research Paper on Contemporary Russian Art’ and will each receive 3,000 Euros. We will announce their names at viennacontemporary fair in Vienna in September. Stay tuned!