New York’s New Museum has launched one of the world’s largest art prizes with one clear objective: to recognize path-breaking female sculptors.
Funded by a $2 million grant from the Hostetler/Wrigley Foundation, the award will honor five recipients over the next ten years, each of whom will be commissioned to produce new sculptural works with $400,000 in prize money. The museum will then stage an exhibition on its forthcoming public plaza as part of the 60,000-square-foot Rem Koolhaus-designed addition to its Bowery flagship.
“Supporting and celebrating the significant achievements of women artists, who have a history of being overlooked, and making art as public as possible, are two of our foundation’s central missions,” Hostetler/Wrigley Foundation cofounder Sue Hostetler Wrigley, a trustee at the museum, said in a statement. “Our intent is that the award will also help continue the critical conversation about parity for women.”
The award will have a nomination process, and a jury will select the final recipients. (The jury will be named early next year, with the inaugural winner announced in late 2022.) The grant funding covers the production and installation costs, as well as the artists’ honorarium. Because the New Museum is a kunsthalle, it will not own the finished pieces.
The award comes at a moment when women and non-binary artists still get considerably less wall space than men in museums. According to a joint investigation by Artnet News and In Other Words in 2019, just 11 percent of all acquisitions and 14 percent of exhibitions at 26 prominent American museums over the previous decade were of work by female artists—and the ratio had not improved since 2009.
The New Museum’s prize is among the biggest in the art world, especially in New York, where the prestigious Hugo Boss Prize at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is worth $100,000. The Don Tyson Prize, affiliated with the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, awards $200,000 to one artist each year. (Some prizes give artists unrestricted funds; the New Museum’s money will go toward production and installation of a new commission.)
“This award both acknowledges and builds on the New Museum’s legacy of championing women artists,” New Museum director Lisa Phillips said. “This generous gift that will enable us to further support the creation of new works by some of the best artists working today.”
The museum is known for its progressive programming, but has been criticized in recent years for its working conditions and low pay for non-executives. Leadership attempted to quash unionization efforts in 2018, but workers voted to join Local 2110 of the United Auto Workers the following January, helping spark a still-ongoing push to organize at the nation’s museums.