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Palestinian Artist Emily Jacir Wins $100,000 Hugo Boss Prize

posted on: Nov 17, 2008


Emily Jacir, a Palestinian mixed-media artist known for her probing look at the conflicts that tear at her native land, won the $100,000 Hugo Boss Prize yesterday evening at New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

Jacir, born in 1970, was given the award for her eclectic body of work that ranges from photos of the restricted lives of Palestinians to video recordings of the people’s movement. Her pioneering work “bears witness to a culture torn by war and displacement,” the prize’s jury said, in a statement.

“Emily is a visionary,” Hugo Boss spokesman Philipp Wolff said in an interview yesterday evening, after the announcement. “What’s so special about her is that her work is subtle and embracing at the same time.”

Jacir, who attended the event, declined to comment on her win.

The prize, which started in 1996, is administered by the Guggenheim Foundation and recognizes outstanding innovation and creativity in the arts. Past winners include U.S. artist Matthew Barney in 1996, Thai artist Rirkrit Tiravanija in 2004 and Tacita Dean of England in 2006. There are no geographical or age restrictions for nominees.

Jacir was selected by an independent jury made up of museum directors, curators and critics. She was chosen over Swiss artist Christoph Buchel, known for his large scale installations, Danish artist Joachim Koester, sculptor and visual artist Roman Signer and mixed media specialists Patty Chang and Sam Durant.

A native of Bethlehem who now divides her time between New York and Ramallah, Jacir received a B.A. from the University of Dallas at Irving and a M.F.A. from the Memphis College of Art.

Some of her exhibitions featured jarring and provocative photos and videos. An experimental video recorded about six years ago, “Crossing Surda” (A Record of Going to and from Work), captured her experience of being held at gunpoint by an Israeli soldier.

Last year, Jacir won the coveted Golden Lion award for artists under 40 at the Venice Biennale’s 52nd International Art Exhibition.

By Patrick Cole

Picture Caption:

Emily Jacir, a Palestinian mixed-media artist and winner of the 2008 Hugo Boss Prize, holds up her award during an event at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York on Nov. 13, 2008. Photographer: Andrew Walker/Getty Images for Hugo Boss via Bloomberg News