Review: Hugo Boss Prize 2016

©Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for Hugo Boss
©Neilson Barnard / Getty Images for Hugo Boss

Hugo Boss Prize celebrates its 20th anniversary in the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum New York and honors talented artists

In 2016 year the prestigious Hugo Boss Prize celebrates its 20th anniversary and this year’s winner is determined: Anicka Yi, a korean-american conceptual artist, beat out the competition, including established artists by the likes of painter Laura Owens or video artist (and our secret favorite) Mark Leckey.

The who’s who of the art world flocked together at New York’s Upper East Side, or more precisely, at the Guggenheim Museum, for the elaborate festivities and the big announcement. Furthermore the guestlist included actresses Kate Bosworth and Nina Hoss as well as Toni Garrn and model colleague Miles McMillan, all dressed in BOSS.

The shortlist of nominated artists was comprised of Tania Bruguera, Mark Leckey, Ralph Lemon, Laura Owens, Wael Shawky and Anicka Yi. All participants were selected by a jury that numbers up to six curators, scholars and critics. This time around it includes female powerhouses like Elena Filipovic, Chief Curator of the renowned Kunsthalle Basel and Michelle Kuo, Editor-in-Chief of Artforum. What makes the awarding so special is that there are no restrictions concerning the age or nationality of the nominees — making it a great opportunity for artist from around the globe to participate. Many less acquainted talents such as Douglas Gordon (1998), Marjetica Potrč (2000), Pierre Huyghe (2002), Rirkrit Tiravanija (2004), Danh Võ (2012) or Paul Chan (2014) were among the former laureates, which provided them with a unique platform to showcase their outstanding works.

And also this year the Prize was awarded to a fresh face. Still, Yi is no complete stranger to the art scene. Born in Seoul in 1971 and based in New York since the mid-nineties, Yi works as a conceptual artist since 2008.  Ever since, her oeuvre has been on display in several small exhibitions but gained special recognition at her Jungle Stripe solo show at Kassel’s Fridericianum this year. Not without good reason her works are oftentimes compared to the evasive installations of German art icon Joseph Beuys, as  her work has a certain organic appeal to it.

In her sculptural works she often engages with smell on other senses as that are commonly neglected in favor of sight. “I think we could learn a lot more from tapping into our other senses and cultivating them” she explains in her introductory interview for Hugo Boss. And as it turns out, her oeuvre is full of contradictions: industrial steel is combined with fragile honeycombs, fried flowers are displayed behind a giant bell jar, and so forth. In a way, her installations resemble the works of Michael Sailstorfer who has a similar penchant for transitoriness and often integrates senses other than sight.

Yi however, takes it one step further. By collaborating with biologists and other groups of scientists, she explores microorganisms like bacteria or even DNA and reintroduces them in a clever artistic context. In the course of her exhibit You Can Call Me F, for instance, she gathered genetic samples of 100 women to answer the ironic question “What does feminism smell like?”. In this respect Yi explores the limits of contemporary art by fusing it with industrial objects or biotechnological elements – an ambitious and highly innovative artistic vision that was acknowledged by the jury, accordingly.

When the Hugo Boss Arts Sponsorship program was established in 1995 it began as an attempt to connect the fields of fine arts and fashion, but has ever since generated so much praise and attention, that it certainly stands its ground among the big art awards by the likes of Turner Prize, Marcel Duchamp Prize et cetera. The prize, which is administered by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and sponsored by Hugo Boss, carries a stipend of 100,000 US dollars and will be awarded later this month. In addition to that Anicka Yi’s work will be honoured in form of a solo exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum, in April 2017.

For more infos on this year’s contestants and the winner Anicka Yi here.

After spending a gap year in Paris, Jessica Aimufua set her heart on Berlin, starting her art history and cultural studies undergrad in 2012. As a keen observer and critical thinker she developed an urge to express herself inventively at an early age. In both English and German she writes about contemporary culture and modern aesthetics, with a focus on film, fashion and art . At hey woman! she writes, edits and translates.