Anish Kapoor Pledges to Use $1 Million Genesis Prize Money to Help World’s Refugees

The Israeli prize recognizes individuals who are committed to Jewish values.

Anish Kapoor in Berlin in 2013. Photo courtesy Adam Berry/Getty Images.
Anish Kapoor in Berlin in 2013. Photo courtesy Adam Berry/Getty Images.

Anish Kapoor, named the Genesis Prize Laureate 2017, has announced that he will use the $1 million prize money to try and alleviate the refugee crisis. The Genesis Prize, which has been called the “Jewish Nobel Prize,” is awarded to those of Jewish heritage that have excelled in their professions.

British-Indian Kapoor, who was announced as the winner yesterday, February 5, was born in Bombay to an Iraqi-Jewish mother and Indian father.

“Jewish identity and history have witnessed recurring conditions of indifference, persecution and Holocaust,” Kapoor said in a statement, reported by the Guardian. “Repeatedly, we have had to repossess ourselves and re-identify our communities. As inheritors and carriers of Jewish values it is unseemly, therefore, for us to ignore the plight of people who are persecuted, who have lost everything and had to flee as refugees in mortal danger.”

Kapoor has long spoken out on behalf of refugees and staged a walk across London with fellow artist Ai Weiwei to draw attention to the crisis in 2015. He took the Genesis Prize as an opportunity to make a kind of call to action to the global Jewish community, in which he called on people to pitch together and help the millions of displaced people around the globe.

“I am an artist, not a politician, and I feel I must speak out against indifference for the suffering of others,” Kapoor’s statement continued. ”There are over 60 million refugees in the world today, whatever the geography of displacement the refugees crisis is right here on our doorstep…Their wellbeing is our wellbeing; their desperation is ours.”

Sir Kapoor, who is also a knight of the British realm, joins an impressive list of prior recipients of the prize, which was founded four years ago. The first award went to businessman and ex-mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg, the second to actor Michael Douglas, and the third to violinist Itzhak Perlman.

“It gives us enormous pleasure to bestow this prestigious award upon Anish Kapoor,” said Stan Polovets, chairman and co-founder of the Genesis Prize Foundation in a statement. ”The profound impact of Anish’s work continues a long history of Jewish contribution to the arts…We particularly admire how, in an age frequently characterized by cynicism and indifference, Anish continually advocates for the world’s disadvantaged, challenging all of us to do more to help wherever and whenever we can,” he said.

Specific details of Kapoor’s plan to help will be announced in June 2017.

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