Line up for UK’s biggest contemporary art prize announced

Date posted: January 26, 2012

Artists from Cuba, India, Lithuania, Mexico, Slovenia, Sweden, and the UK on shortlist for Artes Mundi 5

From the flamboyant to the intimate, action and performance are the common threads that link the artists shortlisted for this year’s £40,000 Artes Mundi Prize. From Phil Collins offering reality TV contestants a platform to critique their manipulation by the media, to the meticulous understatement through which Teresa Margolles addresses drug violence in Mexico, the seven artists use a wide range of materials, actions, and strategies to engage with social issues and comment on society.

The shortlist for the fifth Artes Mundi Prize was announced today (26 January 2012) by Ben Borthwick, Artes Mundi’s Chief Executive and Artistic Director following an extensive research process by the two selectors – Sofía Hernández Chong Cuy, Curator of Contemporary Art at Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, New York and curatorial agent for dOCUMENTA (13), and Anders Kreuger, Curator at M HKA in Antwerp, Belgium.  The selectors chose from over 750 nominations, including 576 individual artists from more than 90 countries, identifying artists whose work explores and comments on lived experience.

The seven artists picked for this year’s Artes Mundi, sponsored by Bank of America Merrill Lynch as part of its Arts and Culture Programme, and publicly funded by the Arts Council of Wales and Cardiff Council are:

Miriam Bäckström (Sweden), Tania Bruguera (Cuba), Phil Collins (England), Sheela Gowda (India), Teresa Margolles (Mexico), Darius Mikšys (Lithuania) and Apolonija Šušteršič (Slovenia).

Some of the artists look at specific cultural or historical contexts while others engage with broader themes of human experience. The range of nationalities, themes and artistic media demonstrates the scope of the Artes Mundi Prize, which will be underlined in a major exhibition of works by the shortlisted artists atWales’s new National Museum of Art from 6 October 2012. The 14-week exhibition will be installed in almost 800 square metres of new contemporary art galleries, reinforcing Artes Mundi’s longstanding partnership with Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales.

An international judging panel will award the £40,000 prize midway through the exhibition in November 2012.  All other shortlisted artists will receive a new award of £4,000 each.  A new partnership with Mostyn, the contemporary gallery in North Wales, will also see one of the shortlisted artists present a solo show there in the 2013.

Ben Borthwick, Artes Mundi’s Chief Executive and Artistic Director who joined the team from Tate Modern in 2010 said:

“We are delighted with the exceptional quality of this shortlist which was drawn from a very strong field of nominations. I look forward to welcoming the artists toWalesand creating an exhibition in October that will give audiences the opportunity to engage with the most exciting international contemporary art.”

Anders Kreuger, one of the selectors, added:

”Shortlisting for Artes Mundi has been an honour – and a responsibility to be taken seriously. Almost 600 artists were nominated this year, and it was a huge challenge to whittle these highly accomplished individuals down to just seven. We have chosen seven very different but equally talented artists, of different generations and from all across the globe, to exhibit at National Museum of Art this autumn.”

Bank of America Merrill Lynch is the principal sponsor of the Artes Mundi 5 Exhibition and Prize this year. The company invests in nearly 5,000 arts organisations worldwide supporting all art forms with an emphasis on fostering greater cultural understanding.

Andrea Sullivan, head of Corporate Social Responsibility for Europe and the emerging markets (ex-Asia) at Bank of America Merrill Lynch commented:

“We wish to congratulate Artes Mundi for attracting a significant number of high calibre artists and for facilitating this exhibition against the backdrop of a tough economic year. Our involvement reflects the company’s commitment to supporting global arts and culture in the belief that the health of this sector boosts economies and helps societies to thrive.”



For further information and images, please contact:

Carl Grainger, Artes Mundi

 029 2055 5300  

Lleucu Cooke, Communications Officer, Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales

029 2057 3175

or visit

We welcome press and media interest in the run up to the exhibition opening in October or the award ceremony in November 2012. If you are interested in preparing a feature we would be delighted to help facilitate your visit and interviews with the Artistic Director or individual artists and to provide any specific images you may need.  Please contact Carl Grainger or Lleucu Cooke (details above).

Notes to Editors:

The Artes Mundi 5 Exhibition will be presented for 14 weeks at the National Museum of Art from 6 October 2012. The Artes Mundi 5 Prize will be awarded in November 2012.

Shortlisted artists’ biographies:

Miriam Bäckström

Medium: Photography, text, theatre, video

Born: 1967

Country of Origin: Sweden, lives and works in Stockholm, Sweden


Swedish artist Miriam Bäckström emerged as a conceptual photographer in the 1990’s, best known for her images of empty interiors which tell a story in the absence of the individual.  Bäckström’s ongoing interests explore how history is told, and processes of creating and recreating memory using photography, text, theatre and video.

Many of Bäckström’s more recent works explore the documentary and the fictional, interweaving narratives that create new and uncertain realities and identities. She recently worked on a yearlong project with one of her students who assumed the role of the character ‘Miriam Bäckström’. This character performed public duties on behalf of the artist, selected the work for a retrospective of Bäckström’s work, all the while being the subject of a documentary made by the artist. In 2005 she represented Sweden at the Venice Biennale and collaborated with artist Carsten Höller.

Bäckström has increasingly turned to the moving image, theatre, and performance, working with actor-collaborators to script and shoot videos that expose the often confounding symbioses of fact and fiction, subjectivity and assumed persona.

Tania Bruguera

Medium: Performance, social practice

Born: 1968

Country of Origin: Cuba, lives and works between Havana, Cuba and Chicago, USA

Biography: Since the late 1990’s Tania Bruguera’s artistic practice has often reflected back on the social, cultural and economic experience of being Cuban.  Through an interdisciplinary practice spanning installation, social intervention and most prominently performance, Bruguera explores the role art can play in daily political life, bringing light to the individual’s understanding of self as part of a collective historical and contemporary social memory. Bruguera’s actions encourage viewers to rethink and question notions of fear, vulnerability, empowerment, self-determination and freedom, as well as submission and obedience as social survival strategies.

At the core of Bruguera’s practice is a collaborative impulse that opens up the possibilities made available to her to be shared by others. In 2003 she founded the alternative art school Cátedra Arte de Conducta (Studies in the Art of Behaviour) in Havana to channel intellectual and technological resources unavailable in Cuba to emerging Cuban artists. This has been crucial in the development of a generation of Cuban artists now starting to show internationally. From 2010-15 Bruguera is focusing on her long-term project Immigrant Movement International, based inQueens,NY, which seeks to redefine the immigrant as a global citizen and stimulate artists to create work that can be actively implemented into social, political, and scientific issues.

Phil Collins

Medium: Film, video, photography

Born: 1970

Country of Origin: UK, lives and works in Berlin, Germany

Biography: British artist Phil Collins’ social engagement forms the basis of a practice that investigates the nuances of interpersonal relations within global communities through his performance-based and conceptual approaches to video and photography.  Currently based inBerlin, Collins has extensively pursued his practice since the early 2000’s across places that have experienced geopolitical unrest, in cities such asBaghdad,Belgrade, Bogotá, and, most recently,Jakarta.

For Collins, popular culture and the media combine with questions of social and political unrest, framed as ways of investigating the inherent problems of representation within different media.  Processes of narrating history assume the form of documentary, reality TV, soap operas and music videos, leading him to question the complex relations between producer, participant and viewer.

For Collins, the photographic transaction is key, an instrument of both truth and deception, testimony and fiction, contemporary desires and fears, through which his works explore the very essence of what it is to be human.

Sheela Gowda

Medium: Sculpture, installation

Born: 1957

Country of Origin: India, lives and works in Bangalore, India

Biography: For Indian artist Sheela Gowda the social and cultural reality ofIndia has formed the basis of her practice. Initially trained as a painter, since the 1990’s she has increasingly developed a sculptural and installation practice that combines the formal language of Western sculpture with an exploration of how materials can make specific reference to the social and cultural context of India.

Gowda’s use of unconventional materials is a highly evocative element of her practice, where the tactile qualities of thread, hair, traditional dyes, pattern and weaving, bring the viewer’s attention to a meaning that transposes these elements into social objects and practices located within a network of production and distribution, framed in relation to India’s socio-political legacy.

Her work is both sensual and unsettling, conjuring some of the darkest aspects of human experience, where poetically invested materials evoke what the artist refers to as “the insidious nature of violence, overt and inside us in our psychic makeup”.  Gowda’s ongoing inquiry into the political and social intricacies ofIndia, traditions of labour, inequity and oppression, creates a richness of meaning woven into a fabric of strength and reclaimed identity.

Teresa Margolles

Medium: Sculpture, installation, video

Born: 1974

Country of Origin: Mexico, lives and works in Mexico

Biography: Teresa Margolles’ work focuses on the collective turmoil of the Northern Mexican social experience where drug-related organised crime has resulted in widespread violence and murder. Anonymous traces of past lives, burial and memory are drawn together in her practice. Since graduating with a diploma in forensic medicine in the late 1990’s, Margolles has examined the economy of death, whereby the morgue and dissecting room bear witness to social unrest.

For Margolles, sculptural installations and performance bring the physical reality, and materiality, of death to the fore.  Typically activating the blind spots of our imagination, Margolles collapses the distinction between art and reality, as in her work for the Venice Biennale in 2009 where the floor of the exhibition space was mopped continuously with water from a morgue inMexico.  By means of artistic intervention, Margolles brings attention uncharacteristically close to our understanding and relationship with death in relation to social, cultural and economic reality.

Darius Mikšys

Medium: Installation

Born: 1969

Country of Origin: Lithuania, lives and works in Vilnius, Lithuania

Biography: For Lithuanian artist Darius Mikšys the recontextualisation of events, experiences, and histories into unstable narratives has taken a central role since the late 1990’s.  For Mikšys, installations provide the opportunity to experiment, conceptualise, and re-imagine processes of making, displaying and engaging with art.

Social networks take on new forms within the framework of Mikšys’ curatorial interventions; as founder of the first Lithuanian cricket club Mikšys has built a reputation for introducing social networks, and through various Artists Parents Meetings he has approached and interacted with a wider community of parents of artists in a hybrid form of performance, therapy, and collective experience.

For the 54th Venice Biennale, Mikšys invited all Lithuanian artists who had received European grants to submit a work to his project Behind the White Curtain, 2011. Visitors were able to select from these works, enabling them to create their own displays of post-Soviet Lithuanian art, resulting in a continuously changing narrative of collective identity. Within the context of previous works we can understand Mikšys’ practice as one of re-inventing notions of representation, in terms of the deconstruction of concrete narratives.

Apolonija Šušteršič

Medium: social practice, site specific installation

Born: 1965

Country of Origin: Slovenia, lives and works in Amsterdam and Ljubljana

Biography: Slovenian artist and architect Apolonija Šušteršič has focused on the social aspects of living environments manifested in art as well as architectural contexts since the 1990’s.  Her cross-disciplinary approach to creating works within urban environments leads to a socially engaged practice that brings together artists and architects, critics and curators that goes beyond art and architecture, and takes the form of everyday life.

Typically, Šušteršič’s broad ranging interest starts with a phenomenological study of space and continues its investigation into the social and political nature of our living environment. Her critical analysis of space usually focuses on the processes and relationships between institutions, cultural politics, urban planning and architecture. Situated somewhere between art, architecture and public services, Šušteršič’s practice creates and integrates communities of users who develop scenarios of alternatives and spaces for hope.

Selectors’ biographies

Sofía Hernández Chong Cuy is a curator of contemporary art for Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros. Much of her curatorial work has consisted in working closely with visual artists in conceptualising meetings points—whether these are in the form and space of exhibitions, events or printed matter—for audiences to experience art in unconventional ways. At different times in the past decade, Sofia was director of Museo Tamayo in Mexico City, and held curatorial positions at Art in General and Americas Society, the latter two in New York.

In the past, she has curated exhibitions for Kadist Art Foundation in Paris, MALBA in Buenos Aires, Center for Contemporary Art in Vilnius, and MUSAC in Leon; and worked on projects with a number of artists, including Allora & Calzadilla, Alejandro Cesarco, Mario Garcia Torres, Andrea Geyer, Sharon Hayes, and Judi Werthein. Since 2009, she works as an agent for dOCUMENTA (13). Sofía writes regularly for exhibition catalogues, magazines and in the blog she initiated:, and through the editorial project

Anders Kreuger has been Curator at M HKA, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Antwerp, Belgium, since 2011. Previously he was Director of the Malmö Art Academy, Lund University and Curator of Exhibitions at Lunds konsthall, both in Sweden.  For four years he was also a member of the Programme Team for the European Kunsthalle in Cologne. In 2008 he advised the Raqs Media Collective in their capacity as curators of Manifesta 7 in Bolzano, Italy. He has been a member of the editorial board for the journal A Prior in Belgium since 2007. In 2005 he set up the project Calcutta Art Research together with the artist Praneet Soi.

Kreuger works regularly as an independent curator, writer, editor and lecturer. He has authored numerous texts, as well as curatorial projects in northern, eastern and western Europe,Russia and theUS, among them the Periferic 6 biennial inIasi,Romania, in 2003.

About Artes Mundi

Artes Mundi is an international arts organisation based inWales. Established in 2002, Artes Mundi is committed to supporting groundbreaking contemporary visual artists from around the world whose work engages with social reality and lived experience.

Every two years, working with artists, galleries, art institutions, curators and the British Council, Artes Mundi seeks nominations of artists known in their own country or region but who are still gaining wider international recognition.  Two independent selectors review the nominations and select between five and seven artists for the biennial exhibition and prize.

The 14 week exhibition features a body of work from each of the shortlisted artists and takes place at the National Museum of Art inCardiff.  A separate panel of five judges awards the Artes Mundi Prize which is one of the world’s largest cash prizes in the visual arts.  From 2012, Artes Mundi will award £40,000 to the winner and £4,000 each to the other shortlisted artists. A new partnership with Mostyn will also see one of the shortlisted artists present a solo show the year after the exhibition.

The first four Artes Mundi Exhibitions have been a popular success with diverse audiences, particularly with young people.  Public and curatorial events and education programmes are offered inWalesduring each biennial and further touring and commissioning strands are being developed.

In 2010 the Artes Mundi 4 Prize was awarded to Yael Bartana who went on to represent Poland at the 2011 Venice Biennale (June-November 2011). The first Artes Mundi Prize was awarded in 2004 to Xu Bing, a Chinese born artist living inNew York. In 2006 the Artes Mundi 2 Prize was awarded to the Finnish artist Eija-Liisa Ahtila, and in 2008 to the Indian artist NS Harsha.

Artes Mundi is publicly funded by the Arts Council of Wales and by Cardiff City Council.  Other funders include The Colwinston Charitable Trust, The Derek Hill Foundation, The Myristica Trust and the Waterloo Foundation. Bank of America Merrill Lynch is the principal sponsor of the Artes Mundi 5 Exhibition and Prize.

 Ben Borthwick

Ben Borthwick was appointed Chief Executive and Artistic Director of Artes Mundi in 2010. He is a curator and writer who specialises in international contemporary art, with particular focus on sound and socially engaged practices. During seven years at Tate Modern (2003-10) he curated exhibitions including Gilbert & George, Latifa Echakhch, Rodchenko and Popova, The Irresistible Force and Rosa Barba, and worked closely with Bruce Nauman and Doris Salcedo on their Turbine Hall commissions for the Unilever Series. In 2010 he initiated Latitude Contemporary Art, a programme of commissions for the music and arts festival which he continues to co-curate. Prior to Tate, he worked on a number of public art projects with Artangel, Liverpool Biennial and Henry Moore Foundation. He writes regularly for exhibition catalogues and artist publications and was a regular contributor to The Wire music magazine from 1998 to 2008.

Wales’s National Museum of Art

Wales’s National Museum of Art opened on 9 July 2011, showcasing the full range of the nation’s world-class art collection under one roof at National Museum Cardiff. For the first time, the National Museum’s mix of fine and applied art, from the historic to the contemporary, is shown in a single series of integrated galleries, giving a new visibility to art in Wales and to the art of Wales.

The West Wing – six impressive new contemporary art galleries – is the biggest space of its kind in Wales. Previously, the Museum had only one gallery to display its range of modern and contemporary art, which is one of the UK’s most important collections. This development gives the Museum nearly 800 square metres more space to show the strength and range of art produced in Wales since the 1950s, and how this relates to the international scene.

About Bank of America Merrill Lynch

As a company with employees and clients in more than 40 countries and 100 markets around the world, Bank of America Merrill Lynch helps a broad spectrum of arts programmes thrive, encompassing sponsorships, grants and loans to museums from the company’s own art collection. In 2010 the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Art Conservation Project was launched; a global initiative which provides grants to non-profit museums throughout the world to facilitate the preservation of artworks with important cultural or historical value for the enjoyment of future generations. As part of Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s corporate responsibility, this project serves to support local cultures and to locally embed the company’s brand, particularly in those areas where it conducts business.
2011 sponsorships include the V&A’s The Cult of Beauty: the Aesthetic Movement 1860 – 1900, The British Museum’s Afghanistan: Crossroads of the Ancient World,and Manet, The Man who invented Modern Art at the Musée d’Orsay, Paris. The company is also Global Sponsor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and Presenting Sponsor of the Bridge Project which sees Kevin Spacey star in the title role of Sam Mendes’ acclaimed Richard III production in cities around the world. Sponsorships in 2012 include Lucian Freud Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery, London (February – May) and Americans in Florence at the Palazzo Strozzi, Florence (March – July).

Through the company’s Art in Our Communities® programme, the Bank of America Collection has been converted into a unique community resource from which museums and non-profit galleries may borrow complete or customised exhibitions at no cost. Since its launch in late 2008, more than 50 exhibitions have been loaned to museums around the world. These include The Art Books of Henri MatisseThe Wyeth Family: Three Generations of American Art; and Conversations, an exhibition of 80 photographs by some of the genre’s most recognised names.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch supports nearly 5,000 arts organisations worldwide, in the belief that greater cultural understanding can foster increased opportunities for all.

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