The Contemporary Austin Aims for a Spot on the World Stage With $100,000 Art Prize

The purse ranks among the art world's largest.

The Contemporary Austin.
The Contemporary Austin.

The Contemporary Austin has just earned a spot among the institutions that bestow the world’s biggest art prizes. Director Louis Grachos has announced a new biannual $100,000 art prize, which will come with a solo exhibition at the museum.

Titled the Suzanne Deal Booth Art Prize—for the institution’s eponymous trustee—the first prize will be awarded this fall. The winning artist’s solo exhibition will be organized at the museum’s downtown venue, the Jones Center, with options to also be featured at the museum’s outdoor site.

The sizable purse rates among the highest art prizes, which also include the Whitney Museum’s $100,000 Bucksbaum Award, given to an artist in the Whitney Biennial; the Guggenheim Museum’s $100,000 Hugo Boss Prize; the DeVos Foundation’s $200,000 ArtPrize; and the $100,000 Abraaj Group Art Prize, presented at the Art Dubai fair.

“My mission as an art advocate has been to keep art alive and accessible as well as contributing to the dialogue in the art world,” said Deal Booth in a statement from the museum.

Grachos spoke to artnet News in a phone interview from Austin, noting that the idea for the prize was the brainchild of Deal Booth. “We started discussing the possibilities of not just a cash award but also supporting the selected artist with a major exhibition and then a catalogue that would give the work legacy. As we fine-tuned we thought of how it could serve both an artist and the community as well as the Contemporary Austin. It all just sort of synched beautifully with our mission which is to not only embrace and support international artists of all generations but to commission works. It seemed to really reinforce our mission in a clear and exciting way.”

The winning artist will be selected by an advisory committee of museum curators and directors. In addition to Deal Booth and senior curator Heather Pesanti, the committee includes Stephanie Barron, senior curator and head of the modern art department at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Naomi Beckwith, curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Peter Eeley, chief curator at MoMA PS1, New York; Hamza Walker, director of education and associate curator at the Renaissance Society, Chicago; and Heidi Zuckerman, director and CEO of the Aspen Art Museum.

The first related solo exhibition will open in early 2018.


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