Deana Lawson Wins the 2020 Hugo Boss Prize, Becoming the First Photographer Ever to Take the Prestigious Award

Her first museum survey opens next year in Boston.

Mama Goma, Gemena, DR Congo (2014). © Deana Lawson. Courtesy of Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York, and Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago.
Deana Lawson, Mama Goma, Gemena, DR Congo (2014). © Deana Lawson. Courtesy of Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York, and Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago.

Photographer Deana Lawson, born in 1979 in Rochester New York, is the recipient of the 2020 Hugo Boss Prize, the Guggenheim announced today. The New York-based artist is the first photographer ever to be awarded the prize.

Lawson is known for staging complex and intimate tableaux that focus on scenes of Black life, venerating the commonplace and celebrating her subjects. She carefully stages the lighting and position of her subjects, working in collaboration with them to create what she describes as a “mirror of everyday life.”

Lawson’s work has been exhibited at the Underground Museum, Los Angeles, the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, and Amsterdam’s Museum voor Fotografie. Her first museum survey will open in 2021 at the ICA Boston.

“Lawson is the first artist working in photography to be recognized with the award in its history,” Richard Armstrong, director of the Guggenheim Museum and Foundation said in a statement, “and her contribution to the medium and the larger cultural landscape is indelible.”

In light of the difficult economic circumstances many artists are facing in this extraordinary year, for the first time since its creation, each of the five shortlisted artists will receive a $10,000 honorarium. Those artists are Kevin Beasley, Elias Sime, Cecilia Vicuña, Adrián Villar Rojas, and Nairy Baghramian.

Deana Lawson, <i>Chief</i> (2019). Courtesy of Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York; and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles.

Deana Lawson, Chief (2019). Courtesy of Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York; and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles.

Sponsored by Hugo Boss and presented by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, the prize has been awarded biannually since 1996. In addition to a $100,000 purse, the winner also gets a solo exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. Among the most prestigious awards within the contemporary art world, the prize’s past winners include Matthew Barney, Pierre Huyghe, Tacita Dean, Danh Vo, Anicka Yi, and Simone Leigh.


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