The art community descended on the Guggenheim Museum in New York City last night to celebrate the reveal of the 2014 winner of the Hugo Boss Prize. Presented by Richard Armstrong, director of the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum and Foundation, and Hugo Boss CEO and chairman Claus-Dietrich Lahrs, the biennial award, which carries a $100,000 cash prize, was scooped by multidisciplinary artist Paul Chan.
'I'm so glad you're here and not at the Hunger Games premiere,' Chan joked during his acceptance speech in the museum's rotunda, which featured a glittering installation of silver foil palm fronds hanging overhead. Hong Kong-born Chan pipped four other finalists - Sheela Gowda, Camille Henrot, Hassan Khan, and Charline von Heyl - to be crowned this year's winner. A publication featuring the work of these artists, accompanied by essays, was published earlier this year.
Established in 1996, the Hugo Boss Prize honours artists whose oeuvres have made a profound and lasting impact. Every two years, a jury comes together to select a shortlist of artists for the prize that is irrespective of age, gender, nationality or chosen medium. Previous winners have included Matthew Barney (1996); Douglas Gordon (1998); Tacita Dean (2006); Emily Jacir (2008) and Danh Vo (2012), to name a few. In addition to the stipend, the museum also hosts a solo exhibition by the winning artist.
Chan's multidisciplinary practice, which includes analogue animation films, invented typography and his own printing press, Badlands Unlimited, propelled him to the title. A political activist from the get-go, his ability to bring contemporary issues to the fore made the jury's decision a unanimous one.
Guggenheim Museum deputy director and chief curator Nancy Spector, who chaired the jury, said, 'Paul had a razor sharp ability to comment on some of the most pressing issues that we're facing, but often with abstracted terms. He also has an expanded practice, which gives a platform to other creative people. That's something the jury talked a lot about.'
As for taking the accolade, Chan candidly explained, 'I've spent a whole artistic career trying to be misrecognised, so it's a strange feeling to be recognised. I think the success comes from a complete misunderstanding of the work, but I won't look the gift horse in the mouth. I'm happy to be here.'