A prestigious contemporary art prize has been awarded to all six shortlisted artists for the first time.
The jury for the Artes Mundi prize, which was founded in 2003, made the unanimous decision in recognition of the “enormous social, political and economic upheaval” experienced by the art world during the pandemic.
It follows a recent trend that has seen the 2019 Turner Prize and Art Fund’s Museum of the Year in 2020 given to multiple entries.
The prize money was increased from £40,000 to £60,000 so it could be split equally between the six artists – Firelei Baez, Dineo Seshee Bopape, Meiro Koizumi, Beatriz Santiago Munoz, Prabhakar Pachpute and Carrie Mae Weems.
The shortlist was announced in September 2019 and the winner was due to be announced in January 2021 following a four-month exhibition of the nominees’ work but was delayed as the pandemic continued to disrupt the art world.
The jury, which features gallerists and curators from across the world, said in a joint statement: “Reflecting on 2020 into the present, this has been a time of enormous social, political and economic upheaval, and as a jury, we have reached a collective, unanimous decision to award the Artes Mundi 9 Prize to all six participating artists: Firelei Baez, Dineo Seshee Bopape, Meiro Koizumi, Beatriz Santiago Munoz, Prabhakar Pachpute and Carrie Mae Weems.
“We have done so in recognition of both the context in which their work is produced; and importantly, in recognition of each individual practice which is outstanding in merit, made especially, and powerfully relevant today.”
They said that together the six entries created a “coherent and timely exhibition, addressing a range of issues and topics for consideration” and that each artist had “demonstrated great resilience in overcoming the many, global obstacles that Covid-19 has presented”.
The Artes Mundi prize is usually held every two years at the National Museum Cardiff.
Nigel Prince, director of Artes Mundi, said: “As director, and on behalf of the Artes Mundi staff team and board of trustees, I express my thanks to the jurors for all their work and offer heartfelt congratulations to Firelei, Dineo, Meiro, Prabhakar, Beatriz and Carrie.
“Working together over these last 18 months has been a most rewarding experience and has resulted in a timely and enriching exhibition that visually and conceptually speaks with great insight and potency.”
Baez’s work explores issues including migration and women’s identity while Bopape’s tackles subjects of gender, politics, race, psychology and sexuality.
Bopape said: “I feel very moved, very honoured to receive the shared prize and to share it with my fellow artists. I have been moved very much by the spirit, labour, gravity, courage of their work, and our work collectively.
“We are (globally) collectively at a very special junction. Eternal gratitude and blessings to all the beautiful luminous teachers and guides working with us and through us and the earth for hosting me/us. Thank you.”
Weems is widely considered one of the most influential American artists of the 21st century, investigating the black experience in her native country.
She said: “Thank you. This is the perfect way to acknowledge the hard work of each artist. Participating in Artes Mundi has been a surprising joy! It has allowed me to make new work and to see the work of other artists.”