Isa Genzken is the 2019 recipient of the Nasher Prize. Awarded by the Nasher Sculpture Center, the honor—now in its fourth year—recognizes artists who have contributed significantly to our perception of sculpture, with a cash prize, a series of dialogues, and an annual gala. The German artist joins past recipients Theaster Gates, Doris Salcedo, and Pierre Huyghe.
Genzken has employed a range of materials throughout her 40-year career, including wood, plaster, concrete, and textiles. A child of postwar Germany, she has not shied away from addressing the aftermath of her country’s dark history. She has continued to expand her practice, unafraid of exploring new media and modes of creating.
“The improvisational quality of Isa Genzken’s work—the near-constant reinvention of her practice, especially through assemblage—has a unique ability to respond to contemporary life. She has an uncanny way of taking the pulse of every moment, changing her methods of sculpture-making in order to best describe the energy of the time,” said Nasher director Jeremy Strick. “Because of that, when looking back over her career of the last 40 years, you are able to get a sense of each decade’s spirit, and see how she has shaped subsequent generations of artists through her creative disruption of traditional approaches and forms.”
Each year, the honoree is chosen by a select group of artists and curators. Whitewaller asked a couple members of the 2019 jury about their choice.
“Isa Genzken has been one of the most inventive artists for the last decades, especially in terms of redefining sculpture by opening it up to embrace major changes in contemporary culture impacted by pop culture, new materials applied to the everyday life. She also expanded the notion of monumentality in public space by introducing surprising but playful forms to reactivate urban context, sometimes even stepping into the field of architecture and urbanism. Sculpting becomes a process of constructing . . . it is also a process of image production.”
—Hou Hanru, Artistic Director ofMAXXI in Rome, Italy
“An encounter with a Genzken work is to experience imagination at its most unbridled.
And to look over her work from the past 35–40 years is an opportunity to experience her restless and exploratory relationship with sculpture as object, as intervention, as display, as theater, as parody, as collage . . . If claims can be made that Genzken’s work has pushed our understanding of the limits of sculpture, it is not through challenging those limits but through reinventing them, using them, maximizing them . . . and above all, maybe refusing to identify that there are limits.”
—Phyllida Barlow, Artist
The 2019 Nasher Prize Gala took place on April 6, 2018, at the Nasher Sculpture Center.