Star Curators Handpick 48 Finalists for Porto’s Inaugural PCS Art Prize

One jury member explains why this prize is different from the rest.

Porto city Hall, Portugal. Photo by Diego Delso, CC BY-SA 3.0, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Last Friday, the City Hall of Porto, Portugal, announced the finalists of the Paulo Cunha e Silva Art Prize, featuring a shortlist of 48 artists chosen by a top-tier network of international curators, writers, and museum directors.

Elena Filipovic, of the Kunsthalle Basel; Nancy Spector and Pablo León de la Barra, of the Guggenheim; Venus Lau, of OCAT Shenzhen; and Hans Ulrich Obrist, of the Serpentine Galleries, are among 16 curators chosen by an initial jury of four.

That jury includes curator and writer João Laia; artist Julião Sarmento; choreographer and dancer Meg Stuart; and curator, and former Tate director, Vicente Todolí.

They were selected by the Culture Department of the City Council of Porto, and in turn, handpicked four curators each from around the world, who selected three artists each as grand finalists for the prize.

João Laia. Photo courtesy PCS Art Prize.

João Laia. Photo courtesy PCS Art Prize.

“The prize is different from the others because it is a kind of networked model. It functions with successive nominations in a loop. The jury nominates curators who nominate artists, and then the shortlist goes back to the jury to choose the winner,” Laia told artnet News. “It is absolutely transparent, which is great.”

The 48 nominated artists include Olga Balema; Paul Maheke; Ian Cheng; Eva Koťátková; Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa; Njideka Akunyili Crosby; and Christine Sun Kim, who was actually nominated by two curators, Nancy Spector and João Riba.

Laia told artnet News he is happy with the gender distribution of the artists and curators.

Eligible to artists under 40 who have had, at most, one solo exhibition at an institution with an “international reputation,” the PCS Prize seems to agree with the idea that “emerging” equals “young.” In contrast, the Turner Prize, previously limited to artists under 50, announced an expanded rule last week, that will now allow artists of any age to win.

The winner of the Porto-based prize, to be announced in June, will receive a cash award of €25,000 ($26,700). Their work will also be the focus of a show at the Galeria Municipal do Porto, a public contemporary art space, to take place in 2018.

The PCS Art Prize is named for Paulo Cunha e Silva, the medical doctor, professor, art critic, and curator who was a much-loved local figure in Porto. He served as councillor for the Culture of Porto City Council for a stint of just over two years, from 2013 until his death from a heart attack on November 11, 2015.

Poster courtesy the PCS Art Prize.

Poster courtesy the PCS Art Prize.

“[The prize] is a tribute to Paulo Cunha e Silva. He had a crucial important role in establishing Porto as a hub for culture in Portugal and in linking the city and the country to larger international flows of thinking,” Laia told artnet News.

“It is also part of a larger dynamic taking place now in Portugal, where culture and art have been given a renewed attention, and at the same time, the international scene is also looking at Portugal as an interesting art and culture platform. This award comes at the right time in the right place in terms of the Portuguese context.”

Additional reporting by Lorena Muñoz-Alonso.

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