Hans Haacke Wins $150,000 Roswitha Haftmann Prize

It's the largest cash art award in Europe, honoring lifelong artistic achievement.

Hans Haacke at the installation of Gift Horse. Photo courtesy JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images.

The Roswitha Haftmann Foundation in Zurich has announced that Hans Haacke is the recipient of its 2017 prize. At 150,000 Swiss Francs (about $150,000), it is the largest cash art award in Europe, annually honoring artists who have demonstrated an outstanding, lifelong artistic career.

“The jury praised his courageous and unflinching commitment over many decades and his ability to foster debate on social issues through provocative art, but also his intellectual brilliance and the formal quality of his works,” said the jury in a statement.

Haacke is the 18th artist to have been awarded the prize. Judged by directors of Kunstmuseums in Bern and Basel, the Museum Ludwig, and Kunsthaus Zurich among other board members, it has been previously given to luminaries such as Lawrence Wiener, Rosemarie Trockel, Cindy Sherman, Vija Celmins, and Maria Lassnig.

Born in 1936 in Cologne, Haacke was a key figure in the Conceptual Art and Institutional Critique movements in the 1960s and 70s in New York, where he has lived since 1965.

His early works were controversial and provocative, like the 1970 MOMA Poll, part of the “Information” exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, which asked the question, “Would the fact that Governor Rockefeller has not denounced President Nixon’s Indochina policy be a reason for you not to vote for him in November?” The wall text prompted viewers to cast ballots into clear plexiglass boxes. More than just bringing the world of politics into the museum, MOMA Poll targeted Nelson Rockefeller, the then-Governor of New York, who also sat on the MoMa board of trustees.

One of his best-known works is Condensation Cube (originally made in 1965), a plexiglass cube containing a small amount of water that becomes its own water-cycle, reflecting the artist’s interest in systems. In the 1980s, he explored forms of Land Art, painting, and installation. His 1990 “Cowboy with Cigarette” collage, featured in the Venice Biennale, targeted Philip Morris’ sponsorship of MoMA by turning a Picasso into an ad for cigarettes. In 2015 Haacke installed “Gift Horse,” a sculpture of a horse skeleton with a stock ticker attached to its leg, on the fourth plinth of London’s Trafalgar Square.

His commitment to digging up institutional dirt has not wavered over his long career. He has shown at four different Documentas, had solo shows at the Tate, London; the New Museum, New York; the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven; the Centre Pompidou, Paris; and Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid.

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