The UK’s leading international contemporary art prize Artes Mundi is delighted to announce an impressive shortlist of six artists for the ninth edition of the biannual prize: Firelei Báez (Dominican Republic), Dineo Seshee Bopape (South Africa), Meiro Koizumi (Japan), Beatriz Santiago Muñoz (Puerto Rico), Prabhakar Pachpute (India) and Carrie Mae Weems (USA). 

The winner of the prestigious Cardiff-based Artes Mundi prize will be announced in January 2021 during a four-month exhibition from October 2020 to February 2021 at National Museum Cardiff. 

As an important arbiter of cultural exchange between the UK and international communities, Artes Mundi seeks to bring together a major biennial exhibition of international contemporary art by some of the most relevant artistic voices of our time. It remains the UK’s largest contemporary art prize with £40,000 prize money and in 2019 Nigel Prince (formerly director of Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver and curator at Ikon Birmingham) takes the helm as the new director of this great organisation. 

Nigel Prince, Artes Mundi’s new Director said: We are delighted to announce the shortlist of artists selected for Artes Mundi 9 who individually produce such compelling and distinctive bodies of work. In prompting us to critically reflect on what it means to exist in this world in all its complexity, their practices speak to and engage with some of the most urgent issues of our time. 

The visually striking work of Firelei Báez focuses on wide ranging Diaspora narratives, addressing questions surrounding issues such as migration, women’s identity and future potentials. Her work challenges culturally predetermined ethnic stereotypes and, often featuring strong female protagonists, her exuberantly colourful paintings combine symbolic cues that span from lavish textiles and wall coverings with colonial-era floral motifs to calligraphic patterns, hair textures, feathered headdresses and beaded jewellery. In 2017 she was shortlisted for Pinchuk Art Foundation’s Future Generation Art Prize, exhibited at the 57th Venice Biennale and in 2019 she was granted Soros Arts Fellowship. 

Dineo Seshee Bopape’s expansive practice tackles subjects of gender, politics, race, psychology and sexuality addressed through personal and collective memories. She uses a diverse range of commonplace materials such as soil, bricks, timber, with archival images and sound, as well as natural and technological systems, to develop powerful large-scale installations that draw together the celestial and the earthly, the bodily and the metaphysical. Bopape’s work has been shown internationally at some of the most prestigious biennales around the world, including 12th Biennale de Lyon and 10th Berlin Biennale in 2018. 

Meiro Koizumi’s videos and performances have garnered attention globally for their investigation into boundaries between the private and the public, a domain of specific importance to his Japanese cultural heritage. Often starting harmoniously, he gradually heightens the tension manipulating the situation from humorous to painful. His performances focus and enlarge the moment when a situation gets out of control, such as his 2018 work Battlelands where Koizumi investigates the psychological dimension of the violence of war through performances by five US combat veterans from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2018 he was included in the prestigious Mercedes Benz Art Scope residency program for artists.  

Beatriz Santiago Muñoz is best known for films rooted in long periods of observation and research exploring the social and political conditions of her native Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. Her cultural heritage plays a crucial role in her practice which focuses on the redevelopment and gentrification of the Puerto Rican landscape, and its impact on local communities. Santiago Muñoz was awarded the Creative Capital Visual Art Award (2015) and the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award (2017). 

Prabhakar Pachpute’s works are strongly informed by the working conditions, relentless excavation, unequal social development and land politics of his home state Chandrapur in India, known as 'the city of black gold'. His meticulous drawings, animations and use of charcoal have a direct connection to his subject matter and, as the son of a coal miner, to his familial roots. Using surreal, hybrid combinations of figures and machines to comment on issues concerning labour, Pachpute frequently draws directly onto walls to create spectacular mural installations that investigate a complexity of historical transformations on an economic, societal and environmental stage.  

Carrie Mae Weems is one of the most influential American artists of the 21st century with her award-winning practice investigating family relationships, cultural identity, sexism, class, political systems, and the consequences of power for over thirty years. Through her work, she puts the spotlight on the complex, multidimensional American black experience and questions the internalized racism of her home country. Her complex and multi-award winning body of work employs photographs, text, fabric, audio, digital images, installation, and video. In 2013 Weems received the MacArthur “Genius” grant as well as the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award. 

The Artes Mundi 9  jury is  Cosmin  Costinas, Executive Director and Curator of Para Site, Hong Kong and Artistic Director of Kathmandu  Triennale  2020;  Elvira  Dyangani-Ose,  Director of The Showroom gallery; and Rachel Kent,  Chief Curator at Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia.   

They  commented: “Working with Artes Mundi and one another as jurors has been an unusually collaborative and satisfying process. It has unfolded over a period of months, from a preliminary longlist of submissions through to a shortlist, then a final selection of six outstanding artists who all bring something unique to the project.   

Encompassing painting and drawing, object making, film and video, their practices sit within the museum context and beyond; some transform public space and others exist as ephemeral iterations. Working against the notion of a centre, they reflect diverse global narratives in both exciting and thoughtful ways. These artists' works reflect powerfully on the changing forces that shape our world - encompassing themes of identity and narration, social structures and collective memory, and industry and ecological crisis.” 

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