The Purvītis Award in the next decade 0

The future of the biggest and the most prestigious contemporary art prize in Baltic region

A press conference took place at the Latvian National Museum of Art yesterday, in which museum director Māra Lāce, museum patron Jānis Zuzāns and Purvītis Award curator and editor in chief Daiga Rudzāte announced the future of the Purvītis Award. Specifically, for the next ten years, the Latvian National Museum of Art in cooperation with SIA “Alfor” will continue organising the Purvītis Award competition in visual art, and every other year one artist or artists’ group will be selected by an international jury and team of experts to receive the award.

At the press conference, Latvian National Museum of Art director Māra Lāce said: “Being the only award in visual art, the Purvītis Award has over the years positioned itself as a serious factor in Latvia’s cultural environment. Its popularity is in large part due to the absolutely democratic process in which the winners are selected first by experts and then a jury, and this process also generates a certain level of intrigue among art watchers and society in general. The Latvian National Museum of Art’s agreement with SIA “Alfor” to continue organising the award for the coming ten years shows a clear commitment to continue to promote the identification, analysis and evaluation of contemporary art in Latvia with the ambitious goal of naming the one person or group that has over a two-year period most qualitatively convinced audiences with their accomplishments.”

From the right: Māra Lāce, Director of the Latvian National Museum of Art; Jānis Zuzāns, a patron of the museum; and Daiga Rudzāte - the representative of the organizing committee and the Chief Curator of the Purvitis Prize 

The Purvītis Award is the highest and most prestigious visual art award in Latvia. It was established in 2008 with the goal of regularly and systematically following current events in visual art in Latvia, promoting the intensity of Latvian art processes, encouraging new projects and the development of original ideas, and popularising the creative accomplishments of Latvia’s artists both in Latvia and beyond its borders. The winner of the award receives EUR 28,500.

Jānis Zuzāns, a patron of the museum and the chairman of the board at SIA “Alfor” also spoke at the press conference: “It is precisely by taking part in the international jury for the Purvītis Award that I have understood that, in order to completely comprehend the processes of contemporary art in Latvia today, it is vitally important to provide the opportunity to become acquainted with the context in which the local manifestations of today’s current art are largely based. We must create the opportunity to represent our 50-year postwar art history as completely as possible. Because today is not possible without yesterday, and everything begins somewhere.”

Zuzāns continued: “I am truly gratified that one of the most essential aspects of the Purvītis Award process is the identification and evaluation of local art phenomena over the past ten years, and, accordingly, I have the wonderful feeling that we have filled one whole decade of art history. That practically nothing had the inadvertent possibility of being overlooked.”

The Purvītis Award will be presented for the fifth time in February 2017, which means that it has existed for a full ten years. “Something significant can emerge only if it was born at a favourable moment, if several essential factors have come together and there is genuine interest from all of those involved. Ten years ago, the idea about a Purvītis Award in its current form seemed utopian in the context of Latvia’s art world at that time. But to everyone’s delight, this utopian dream has come true. I think that the art scene in Latvia would be completely different today without the Purvītis Award. Albeit indirectly, the award has managed to activate local processes and, even more importantly, stimulate discussions about art.

Also important is the fact that the Purvītis Award persistently works to promote the visibility of Latvian art in the world. To that end, it makes use of a variety of tools, including international jury members, publications devoted to Latvian contemporary art and international exhibitions. I believe that precisely the attracting of an international audience to our local art phenomena is one of our most significant tasks for the coming decade,” said Purvītis Award curator Daiga Rudzāte at the press conference today.

The first winner of the Purvītis Award (in 2009) was Katrīna Neiburga for her video work Solitude. Kristaps Ģelzis won the second Purvītis Award in 2011 for his solo exhibition Varbūt (Maybe). The winner of the third Purvītis Award, in February 2013, was Andris Eglītis with his solo exhibition Zemes darbi (Earth Works). And Miķelis Fišers received the fourth Purvītis Award for his solo exhibition Netaisnība (Disgrace).

Also involved in the implementation of the Purvītis Award events are the “Mākslas platforma” association, the “Indie” agency for culture projects and the “P.R.A.E. Sabiedriskās attiecības” agency.