With Absolut’s artist collaboration programme now in its fourth decade with around 800 artworks by major contemporary talents in its portfolio, the Swedish vodka brand is on a global mission to uncover the next Keith Haring or Damien Hirst. Will a new Ruscha be discovered in Russia? Or a young Mariscal in Mali? The competition has been designed to inspire, motivate and empower artists from all over the world. In choosing its artists, Absolut is committed to diversity and equality of gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality and class.        

‘One of the objectives of the competition is to build a more open world through creativity,’ says competition judge Aaron Cezar. ‘I have long observed how the arts, and creative thinking as a whole, can be a way of understanding some of the problems of the world and envisioning our potential to address them’

As founding director of the London-based Delfina Foundation, Cezar runs a creative multimedia platform that shares the diverse, international and open values of the Absolut marque. His work facilitates artistic exchange and develops creative practice through residencies, partnerships and public programming. He curates exhibitions all over the world.

With the judging process about to begin, Cezar is hoping to see work that celebrates the shared values of a new generation. ‘I am looking forward to art that provides clarity to the extraordinary social transformation that is happening right now, giving voice to issues such as gender equality and multiculturalism. We want to see work that starts a conversation. The artist’s own story is as important as the art.’

Also on the judging panel is Mickalene Thomas, a New York-based artist who specialises in painting, collage, photography, video and installation. Her work draws on art history and popular culture to create a contemporary vision of female sexuality, beauty and power.

Thomas brings her own experience of working creatively with the brand, she constructed an Absolut Art Bar installation entitled ‘Better Days’ in Basel, Switzerland, participating in the brand’s ‘Create A Better Tomorrow, Tonight’ project and also designed an advert for the same project. ‘Absolut has always been supportive of artists in a way that’s beneficial for both parties,’ she says.

Thomas says she is excited to see competition entries from the US, Canada, South Africa and China. ‘There’s so much happening globally, but I am particularly interested in these places because I’m connected to them personally,’ she says. ‘I believe some of the most powerful art comes from an artist’s personal experiences, whether or not it’s a part of its subject matter. It can also be in the emotion behind a brushstroke.’

Absolut’s plan to showcase the winning artwork across its social media platforms and digital channels, and display in iconic places, such as in London’s Piccadilly Circus, is, says Thomas, a powerful way of democratising art. ‘Doing this allows people who often don’t have access to viewing art in its more traditional forms, for geographical or economical reasons, to still see the work and be inspired and affected by it. There are very few corporations that truly understand and believe in the value of artists and the art they create in the way that Absolut does.’

The third and final judge, artist and curator Bose Krishnamachari, is an advocate for the competition’s philosophy to foster positive change through creativity. ‘My efforts have always been premised on the idea that art is an essential part of a healthy society, or one that wishes to heal.’

Based between Kochi and Mumbai, Krishnamachari has been part of nurturing India’s art revolution as curator of country’s first Biennale, the Kochi-Muziris Biennale since 2012, and director of the Kochi Biennale Foundation. ‘I think India as a whole has really opened itself up to artistic experimentation. I believe that more people are interested in viewing art, and educating themselves in various visual languages.’

In the competition Krishnamachari is looking forward to seeing entries from unknown artists in the industry, those who are from ‘emerging or non-dominant economies that may not be as visible in the global arena,’ he describes. 

‘The art community has always been at the forefront of change, historically, and I think this still holds true,’ Krishnamachari comments on the competition’s mission to encourage a more open, equal and inclusive world and create a better tomorrow, tonight. ‘Art is a rare medium that can critique, inspire, and create solutions simultaneously – this is what makes it so impactful’. 

Entries for the Absolut Creative Competition must be submitted by 31 January 2019. The global winner will be announced in May. So if you want to start the next creative Absolut conversation, apply here