German Artist Günther Uecker Awarded Prestigious NRW Prize

Uecker is one of Germany's most expensive living artists.

Günther Uecker
Photo: F. Gambarini/Archiv

The German sculptor and installation artist Günther Uecker, famous for his op-art pieces created with nails, has been honored with the State Prize of North Rhine Westphalia for his life’s work—the highest award presented by the state of NRW. The award is endowed with €25,000 ($27,800).

Uecker, who lives and works in Dusseldorf, is one of Germany’s most expensive living artists. At the award ceremony, held yesterday, the 85-year-old artist was lauded for his influence on generations of young artists, having left his mark on contemporary art in Germany and Europe after World War II. Uecker, who was born in what would later become East Germany, fled from the GDR to West Germany in 1953. 

Günther Uecker,  Bewegtes Feld (1964). Courtesy of Collection Van Abbemuseum, Einhoven, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2015.

Günther Uecker, Bewegtes Feld (1964).
Photo: Courtesy of Collection Van Abbemuseum, Einhoven © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2015.

In 1960, he became affiliated with the ZERO group, together with Heinz Mack and Otto Piene, and had experimented with the medium of light in his early work. When the group dissolved, he occupied himself with the use of nails more intensively in his work, a motif that exists in his oeuvre to this day. At Art Basel in 2014, art dealer Dominique Lévy sold Uecker’s suite of eight white paintings for $6.8 million.

Uecker is the 52nd laureate of the State Prize NRW. The award was established in 1986, to mark the 40th anniversary of the state. Other notable awardees include dance-theater pioneer Pina Bausch, in 1990; artist Rosemarie Trockel, in 1998; Gerhard Richter, in 2000; and the late Bernd and Hilla Becher, in 2001. 

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