Why the Booth Prize is big for Austin

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Monika Sosnowska, View of studio, Warsaw, Poland, 2016. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photograph by Bartosz Górka.

Earlier today, the Contemporary Austin announced that it would be the steward for the new Suzanne Deal Booth Art Prize, a biennial $100,000 award that will go to an artist of any age and of any nationality, no matter the art media they work in and no matter at what stage in their career they may be.

The prize includes support for a solo exhibit at the Contemporary and a catalog — in effect an invitation to create entirely new work for display at the Contemporary Jones Center or even at the museum’s outdoor site, the Marcus Sculpture Park at Laguna Gloria.

The intent of the Booth Prize is to serve as a game-changer for an artist.

“The prize will create a highly visible outlet for artists deserving of increased recognition and for whom the award, exhibition and publication will be transformative — whether they be an early-, mid-, or late-career artist,” said Contemporary director Louis Grachos

That’s a magnanimous gesture in an art world typically star-struck by the celebrities of its own making.

Monika Sosnowska, View of studio, Warsaw, Poland, 2016. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photograph by Bartosz Górka.

Monika Sosnowska, View of studio, Warsaw, Poland, 2016. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photograph by Bartosz Górka. Sosnowska has lived and worked in Warsaw since 2000, a witness to the city’s tumultuous and ongoing transition from Communist Soviet bloc rule to capitalist democracy. She will have a major solo show at the Contemporary Austin opening in Nov. 2016, her first comprehensive museum exhibit in the U.S.

The Booth Prize will likely be a game-changer for Austin too.

Sure, some will protest that the prize is not for a local Austin artist. But if Austin’s cultural scene is to deepen and mature and expand, it needs all types of tools and stimula.

A buzzworthy art prize brings new eyes — from elsewhere as well as from here  — to all of Austin’s cultural scene.It signals that Austin is ready for more than live music and barbeque. It says that a city’s social leaders value and celebrate today’s contemporary global culture. And it says that Austin is enlightened and ready for a cultural dialogue with something other than itself.

And that’s a prize.

Monika Sosnowska, "The stairs," 2011. Painted steel. Installation view at Contemporary Austin – Betty and Edward Marcus Sculpture Park at Laguna Gloria. Photograph by Brian Fitzsimmons.

Monika Sosnowska, “The stairs,” 2011. Painted steel. Installation view at Contemporary Austin – Betty and Edward Marcus Sculpture Park at Laguna Gloria. Photograph by Brian Fitzsimmons.


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