Betye Saar wins Wolfgang Hahn Prize

Betye Saar wins Wolfgang Hahn Prize

The Museum Ludwig in Cologne, Germany, has awarded Betye Saar the Wolfgang Hahn Prize, one of Germany’s top art awards. It comes with a €100,000 prize, as well as a show at the institution and the addition of works by the artist to the museum’s collection. The award is given annually to a living artist who is not represented in the Museum Ludwig’s holdings.

“Today institutions such as MoMA in New York and the Los Angeles County Museum devote high-profile solo exhibitions to her,” Yilmaz Dziewior, the Museum Ludwig’s director, said in a statement. “In Europe, by contrast, her work is still far too little known. It is our stated goal to change this and finally give the artist the attention she deserves.”

During the 1960s and ’70s, Saar was a crucial figure among a tight-knit circle of black feminists working in the United States. Her tough-willed work has frequently taken the form of installations and assemblages, many of them addressing histories of racism, slavery, and colonialism through the appropriation of objects that caricature African-Americans. Among her most famous works is The Liberation of Aunt Jemima (1972), in which an Aunt Jemima mammy figure appears with a broom—and a rifle. Scholars have viewed the work as a critical revision of stereotypes of black women that have long pervaded visual culture in America—a literal weaponisation of the past in the present.

The criteria for selection are the consistent development of the artist’s oeuvre over a number of decades and international recognition among experts. An additional prerequisite is that the nominated artist is less known in Germany and that his or her work is not yet adequately represented in the collection of the Museum Ludwig. Saar was chosen for the prize by a jury that included Dziewior, board members of the Museum Ludwig, and Christophe Cherix, the chief curator of MoMA’s drawings and prints department.

Past winners of the Wolfgang Hahn Prize include Cindy Sherman, Franz West, Andrea Fraser, Huang Yong Ping and Haegue Yang.

The name of the award honours the memory of the Cologne-based collector and painting conservator Wolfgang Hahn (1924–1987), who was committed on many levels to the art of the European and American Avant-Garde in Cologne. We continue to foster the spirit of his exemplary dedication as a collector, a founding member of our organisation, and head of the museum’s conservation workshops.

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