One Company Just Launched the Biggest Award in Contemporary Art, Giving Artists the Chance to Win an Unprecedented $1 Million

The award is underwritten by the financial services company Nomura Holdings.

The Nomura Holdings Inc. logo. Photo by Akio Kon/Bloomberg/Getty Images.
The Nomura Holdings Inc. logo. Photo by Akio Kon/Bloomberg/Getty Images.

Attention, artists: There’s a new prize up for grabs, and it’s worth a hefty $1 million—the largest cash award in the contemporary visual arts.

The Nomura Art Award, which will recognize “an artist who has created a body of work of major cultural significance,” is funded by the eponymous Japan-based financial services company. In one fell swoop, the award eclipses the prestigious Hugo Boss Prize ($100,000), the Don Tyson Prize ($200,000) and ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, Michigan (which gives out $500,000 in total with two grand prizes of $200,000).

The new award is designed to provide artists with the funds to realize an ambitious new project that they might otherwise be unable to complete. Once that project is complete, the artist can use the rest of the cash however they want. In addition to the main award, the organization is offering two $100,000 awards for emerging artists.

An impressive roster of internationally respected arts professionals have already made their selections for the first year’s awards—though the winners haven’t been announced yet. Like the MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, artists are not able to apply for the honor.

The 2019 jury includes the late curator and critic Okwui Enwezor, as well as Doryun Chong, chief curator of Hong Kong’s M+ museum; Kathy Halbreich, executive director of the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation; Yuko Hasegawa, artistic director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; Max Hollein, director of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art; Nicholas Serota, chair of the Arts Council England; and Allan Schwartzman, founder and principal of Art Agency, Partners, and chairman of Sotheby’s fine arts division.

The inaugural winners of the emerging artist award will be announced in May in Kyoto, while the $1 million prize winner will be named in October at a gala in Shanghai.

The award is sponsored by Nomura Holdings, Inc., an Asian financial service group founded in 1925 by Tokushichi Nomura II, who the announcement describes “an avid practitioner of the tea ceremony and supporter of Noh theater.” The co-sponsors are Nomura Research Institute and Nomura Real Estate Holdings, and Sotheby’s division Art Agency, Partners is advising.


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