The Contemporary Art Prizes in Luxembourg: A Social and Cultural Marker
The awarding of a prize represents a key moment in the career of any artist, regardless of their field of activity. It is a form of recognition that, in addition to providing a certain legitimacy, can foster a taste for success. It is undeniable that the visibility brought by certain awards is a definite asset in an environment where everyone is trying, as best they can, to establish themselves. Beyond its symbolic value, a prize amplifies interest in an artist's work, both from spectators and professionals in the field. In this sense, it is a social and cultural "marker" that opens up other opportunities such as grants for creation or artist residencies.
Luxembourg has numerous awards in the field of contemporary art. While some are ephemeral and circumstantial (such as the Covid 2020 Artistic Innovation Prize awarded to Nora Wagner for her exhibition "Jamais peut-être" [Never Maybe]), others have acquired over the years a reputation comparable to that of major international prizes. Let's take a closer look.
The Luxembourg Ministry of Culture, under the initiative of Minister Sam Tanson, has established a new national prize in the field of visual arts. The Lëtzebuerger Konschtpräis is this new art prize, and it will be awarded every two years starting from 2022. With a reward of 10,000 euros, this new prize will be allocated to an artist for their overall work or the synergies generated by their career, as well as their lasting and sustained commitment to the Luxembourgish art scene. The selected artists are Luxembourgish, living in Luxembourg, or have a strong connection to the country. A jury composed of five experts in the field of visual arts, appointed by the Minister of Culture, will crown the winner. For this first edition, the jury members were Jamie Armstrong, art historian and head of the Lëtzebuerger Konschtarchiv; Marie-Claude Beaud, art historian, curator, and former museum director; Lucien Kayser, art critic and president of AICA (International Association of Art Critics) Luxembourg and the arts and letters section of the Grand-Ducal Institute; Paul Reiles, lawyer, former director of the National Museum of History and Art, and former president of the National Cultural Fund; and Edmond Thill, museum educator, former head of the education department at the National Museum of History and Art, and secretary of the arts and letters section of the Grand-Ducal Institute. They will present the Lëtzebuerger Konschtpräis 2022 on November 11th as part of the Luxembourg Art Week.
The Prizes Of The Cercle Artistique De Luxembourg (CAL)
The Cercle Artistique de Luxembourg awards three important prizes: the Prix Grand-Duc Adolphe, the Prix Pierre Werner and the Prix Révélation. Besides, the Prix de Raville, which was discontinued in 2007, was replaced this year by the Prix Jeune Talent, awarded for its first edition to Anni Mertens.
A monument in the country’s cultural landscape, the Prix Grand-Duc Adolphe has been in existence for 120 years. Initially taking the form as a ‘Competition for the Prize of H.R.H. the Grand Duke of Luxembourg’, it distinguished the ‘best work’ by an artist who had participated in two CAL exhibitions, designated by three jurors appointed by the Grand Duke. The prize quickly became a symbol of prestige. Awarded in person by the Grand Duke or Grand Duchess during an official ceremony, it guaranteed its winner instant national fame. With nearly 100 recipients in more than one hundred years, the biannual Prix Grand-Duc Adolphe is the living memory of Luxembourg’s artistic heritage.
The Prix Pierre Werner was established in 1993 by René Steichen, Minister delegate for Cultural Affairs and Scientific Research, to honour the work of Pierre Werner as Minister of Cultural Affairs. Awarded every two years, it is endowed with an amount of €2,500 and distinguishes a work by an artist or group of artists, who may or may not be members of the CAL, exhibited as part of the CAL’s annual Salon.
Formerly called Prix d’Encouragement aux Jeunes Artistes, the Prix Révélation is surely one of the country’s main gateways for emerging talent. Awarded every two years by the Ministry of Culture to artists under the age of 35 exhibiting at the CAL’s annual Salon, it consists of a grant of €2,500 for a promising artist from the Luxembourgish scene.
The Robert Schuman Art Prize
Awarded every two years since 1991, the Robert Schuman Art Prize surveys the artistic scenes of four major cities in the three-border region of Luxembourg, France and Germany. The biannual award sheds light on contemporary creation in the so-called QuattroPole by presenting the work of sixteen artists from Luxembourg, Metz, Saarbrücken and Trier in a collective exhibition. It is held in a different city each time, and the participating artists – four per city – develop their projects in close cooperation with an exhibition curator from their home scene. An outstanding example of successful transborder cooperation between cultural institutions, the Robert Schuman Art Prize has become a unique and highly anticipated moment in the contemporary art agenda of the Greater Region that seeks to stimulate an exciting dialogue between its different contemporary art scenes. Named in homage to one of the founding figures of Europe, it aims to strengthen the synergy between European artists and institutions and to encourage exchanges within Europe.
The Edward Steichen Prize
Created in 2004 to mark the 125th anniversary of the birth of Edward Steichen, this prize is a vibrant tribute to the life and work of the famous photographer and painter, born in 1879 in Bivange, Luxembourg. Every two years, the non-profit organisation Edward Steichen Award asbl (ESAL) awards two prizes, the Edward Steichen Award Luxembourg and the Edward Steichen Luxembourg Resident in New York Prize, to two emerging European artists working in the field of contemporary art or photography. Its objective is to provide young artists with an opportunity to expand their network around the world. To do so, the two prizes establish a link between the artistic scenes of Luxembourg and New York, echoing Steichen’s career path that led from Luxembourg to the Big Apple. The first, aimed at the European artistic community at large, consists of a six-month residency in New York at the International Studio and Curatorial Program (ISCP), along with a monthly grant of $4,000 for the residency period. The Edward Steichen Luxembourg Resident in New York Prize, the second prize awarded by ESAL since 2011, and recently funded by the fonds stART-up Œuvre Nationale de Secours Grande-Duchesse Charlotte, includes a four-month residency at the ISCP for a Luxembourg-based artist and a monthly grant of $4,000 for the duration of their residency.
The Luxembourg Encouragement For Artists Prize (Leap)
Created in 2016 at the initiative of the Rotondes and RTL, the Luxembourg Encouragement for Artists Prize supports artists or artists’ collectives whose work evidences an innovative approach to contemporary creation. Following a pre-selection process, an international jury meets every two years to select four candidates who will present their work as part of a collective exhibition in the Galerie des Rotondes. Besides rewarding an original artistic vision, LEAP aims to promote the careers of artists who shape the future of contemporary creation. By giving young talented creatives access to a platform that encourages professionalisation and boosts their visibility, it furthermore aims to contribute to their development. In 2016, 2018 and 2020 respectively, Sophie Jung, Laurianne Bixhain and Hisae Ikenaga were distinguished for their new and exciting approaches. The fourth edition will take place from 18 November to 4 December 2022, and will reward the winner with a prize money of €12,500 funded by RTL. This year’s jury is composed of Alice Motard (Director, CEAAC, Strasbourg), Gertrud Peters (Artistic Director, KIT, Düsseldorf), Frank-Thorsten Moll (Director, IKOB, Eupen), Marc Gubbini (architect and collector, Luxembourg) and Patrick Steffen (researcher and curator, Centre Pompidou-Metz). The prize is open to artists of all fields who are directly or indirectly connected to Luxembourg (by nationality, birth, place of residence and/or work).
The Art In Situ Oai Prize
The first edition of the Art In Situ OAI competition was launched in December 2020 under the high patronage of Sam Tanson, Minister of Culture, in collaboration with the non-profit organisation of Engineers and Scientists Da Vinci asbl. From the 18 submissions received, a jury composed of Su-Mei Tse (artist), Trixi Weis (artist), Christian Mosar (curator), Josée Hansen (art critic), Marie Lucas (architect and president of the jury), Gilles Christnach (engineer), Danielle Igniti (curator) and Claudine Hemmer (Ministry of Culture) declared 17 eligible and eventually declared two equal winners, Filip Markiewicz and Hisae Ikenaga. The Art in Situ OAI project emerged in the aftermath of the health crisis in a bid to raise awareness for better integration of art in public buildings and spaces. An initiative by the Order of Architects and Engineers and its director Pierre Hurt, the prize ‘contributes to highlighting the need for culture in the life of the community’. In this sense, it sees itself as a support for artistic creation aimed at strengthening the connections between public spaces and their users. Working with a predefined location, the artists must appropriate its surroundings to articulate a meaningful interaction between the work, the space and its different users. The work is temporarily installed in the headquarters of OAI/Forum da Vinci, who covers the production costs and the artist’s fee, i.e. €10,000 per winner. The artists retain full property of their work and are expected to participate in its documentation in the form of a video report, as well as its promotion during two conferences or events.
Prix EMOP Arendt
The EMOP Arendt Prize was created in 2013 to support 'emerging visual artists with strong artistic potential and a developing photographic practice.' By partnering with the EMOP network - European Month of Photography, which brings together photography festivals in Lisbon (Imago Lisboa), Luxembourg (Emoplux), Berlin (EMOP Berlin), Paris (Circulation(s)), and Vienna (Foto Wien), it represents one of the most significant European cultural collaborations and highlights a particularly rich photographic scene with diverse narratives.Since 2012, Arendt & Medernach has been actively working to promote photography because of their genuine passion for this art form within the Luxembourgish law firm. The prize materializes their support for photographic art and adds to the exhibitions they dedicate to artists from around the world in their premises located in Luxembourg-Kirchberg. With this prize, Arendt & Medernach awards an artist every two years who participates in the joint exhibitions developed by the EMOP network throughout Europe. After recognizing Weronika Gesicka (2019), Samuel Gratacap (2017), and Tatiana Lecomte (2015), the EMOP Arendt Prize has shortlisted artists Cihan Cakmak, Ulla Deventer, Jojo Gronostay, Livia Melzi, and Karolina Wojtas for this edition, selected for their works aligned with ambitious and committed practices, representing the main currents of contemporary photography.