|GeM - Museum voor Actuele Kunst|
GeM - Museum voor Actuele Kunst
2517 HV The Hague
Netherlands (city map,
tel +31 (0)70 3381133
The Vincent Award is the Netherlands’ major biennial prize for European contemporary art. It is worth € 50,000. The next award ceremony, in the autumn of 2014, is the first to be hosted by the GEM. Held in anticipation of this event, ‘Presenting the Vincent’ is a fascinating retrospective of work by the previous winners of the Award: artists such as Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Pawel Althamer, Deimantus Narkevičius, Neo Rauch and Wilhelm Sasnal. A roll-call of attention-grabbing artists who have influenced developments in contemporary art over the last fifteen years. Most of the works in the show are from the Monique Zajfen Collection.
Eija-Liisa Ahtila (b. 1959) lives and works in Helsinki. Her presence has helped to turn the city into a hot spot of contemporary film and video art. As a starting point for her installation ‘The Present’, Ahtila interviewed a number of women about periods of psychological disturbance they had experienced in the past. She eventually chose five of these interviews to be shown in the installation on television screens. In the end, all of the women are offered the same advice: ‘Give yourself a present, forgive yourself.’ Ahtila won the Vincent Award in 2000. Another well-known winner comes from Germany. Neo Rauch (b. 1960) won the prize in 2002. He made his debut at the age of 33, four years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and has become one of the leading painters of his generation. His early work includes frequent allusions to the former GDR and the Wende. Recent paintings appear to depict surrealistic dream worlds: large-scale tableaux in which 19th-century bourgeois figures rub shoulders with soldiers of the GDR.
The 2004 and 2006 winners of the Award are both from Poland. The oeuvre of Pawel Althamer (b. 1967) oeuvre is a weird and wonderful mix of traditional and ‘social’ sculpture. The artist produces installations and sculptures in which a social message is leavened by more than a dash of humour. For his video installation ‘The Dancers’, for example, Althamer invited a group of homeless people to hold hands and dance naked in a circle in a brightly lit room. Without their clothes, they are not identifiable as street people and are therefore relieved of the stigma that normally attaches to them. Wilhelm Sasnal (b. 1972) uses existing material such as press photos, strip cartoons, his own photography or publicity shots of stars as the points of departure for his paintings. In each of his works he uses a (slightly) different style. This stylistic instability has become his trademark; veering between realism and abstraction, he seeks inspiration indifferently in his private life and in the events of world history. Day-to-day banalities alternate with grand gestures.
In 2008, the winner was Lithuanian artist Deimantus Narkevičius (b. 1964). His work consists mainly of films and videos about the country of his birth and its political history. When the Soviet State of Lithuania became independent in 1991, the event prompted utopian visions of its social, artistic and cultural future. Narkevičius resists such illusions and turns his gaze to the Communist past. His film ‘Energy Lithuania’ (2000) is an account of the building of a power station in the town of Elektrėnai in the 50s and makes the intimate relationship between past and present shockingly clear.