In 2014, the international jury chaired by Benno Tempel (director of the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag) awarded the prize to French-Albanian artist Anri Sala (b. 1974, Albania). The other nominees were: Manfred Pernice (b. 1963, Germany), Willem de Rooij (b. 1969, The Netherlands), Gillian Wearing (b. 1963, United Kingdom) and Pierre Huyghe (b. 1962, France). The work of the nominees went on show for six months in an exhibition entitled The Vincent Award 2014 and held at the GEM. Museum of Contemporary Art.
Anri Sala is interested in turning points in history: moments that upset the status quo and produce a new order. He sees such moments as providing the scope for new opportunities. Sala’s early works refer to his personal experience of social and political change in Albania following the collapse of the Communist regime. History, memory and chance continue to be recurrent themes in his more recent work. The jury said that “Sala presents the idea of gone ideologies and the possibilities this creates for the future on an individual level. His work is poetic and at the same time conceptual.” For the Vincent Award 2014, Sala combined three works to create a single installation. His films Le Clash and Tlatelolco Clash transport the viewer to a derelict Modernist arts venue and to spots in the vicinity of the Plaza of Three Cultures in Tlatelolco (Mexico City) – places he sees as symbolizing the failure of a ‘Great Ideology’. The two films are linked by a third work called Doldrum (a reference to the windless area of the Atlantic known as the Doldrums, where sailing ships can be becalmed for days or weeks at a time). In all three films, a snare drum beats automatically in response to inaudible, low-frequency noises on the soundtrack.
The winner of the Vincent Award 2008 was Deimantas Narkevičius. The international jury chaired by Gijs van Tuyl (then director of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam) also nominated the following artists: Francis Alÿs (b. 1959, Belgium but living and working in Mexico City and London), Peter Friedl (b. 1960, Austria), Liam Gillick (b. 1964, United Kingdom) and Rebecca Warren (b. 1965, United Kingdom). In 2008 there was also a Public’s Prize, which was awarded to Francis Alÿs (after Peter Friedl decided not to stand for selection.)
Major aspects of Deimantas Narkevicius’s subject matter are history, memory and modernity. The jury praised the influence of his work on the art and intellectual discourse of the day. It regarded him as a major figure who was doing much to boost cultural life in his home country of Lithuania. However, the jury pointed out that his influence was far wider: Narkevicius showed that the contemporary socio-political situation of Europe could be understood only by re-examining the past. For the exhibition, Narkevicius created The Dud Effect: a film of great complexity and depth about politics and war. He also exhibited The Head, a film addressing themes such as art history, ideology and the role of art in the past.
In 2006, the international jury chaired by Gijs van Tuyl (then director of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam) nominated the following artists: Urs Fischer (b. 1973, Switzerland), Andrei Monastyrski (b. 1949, Russia), Dan Perjovschi (b. 1961, Romania), Wilhelm Sasnal (b. 1972, Poland) and Cerith Wyn Evans (b. 1958, United Kingdom). Their work was put on show for six months in an exhibition entitled The Vincent 2006 and held at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. The prize was eventually awarded to Wilhelm Sasnal.
Wilhelm Sasnal is a film maker and painter. His work is based on apparently everyday things: his wife smoking a cigarette, the director of a factory in the town where he lives, or a building of purely local historical importance. What he depicts is never world-shaking; his subjects are drawn from a wide image bank and give little hint of context. This compels the viewer to study the work carefully and interpret it without preconceptions. For the The Vincent 2006 show, Wilhelm Sasnal created three new films, including The River (2006), which was premiered at the Stedelijk Museum CS.
In 2004, the international jury chaired by Kasper König (director of the Museum Ludwig in Cologne etc.) likewise decided against publishing the shortlist of nominees and the winner was given a solo exhibition. The winner of the Vincent Award 2004 was Polish artist Pawel Althamer (b. Warsaw, 1967).
Althamer’s work combines tradition sculpture with video work and radical performance. For his performances, Althamer sometimes uses actors and sometimes social ‘outsiders’: tramps, alcoholics or children. His work reveals a sense of social engagement but is light-hearted and humorous rather than depressing. The jury expressed its admiration for Althamer’s “meticulous and economical way of making art, his unusual, almost nineteenth-century technique and the psychological approach to consumer behaviour”. The subsequent Pawel Althamer The Vincent 2004 exhibition included sculptures, performances and video works, but its most remarkable feature was the workshop Althamer organized and recorded on video. The artist invited ten 14 or 15-year-old boys from the drab outskirts of Warsaw to come for a holiday in the ‘paradise’ of Maastricht and to cover the upper-floor exhibition space of the Bonnefantenmuseum with graffiti in Polish and English.
In 2002, the international jury chaired by Harald Szeemann (past director of the Berner Kunsthalle and Venice Biennale, etc.) decided to announce only the winner of the Vincent Award and not the entire shortlist. The prize went to the German painter Neo Rauch (b. Leipzig, 1960) and he was given a solo show at the Bonnefantenmuseum in Maastricht.
Rauch’s work is firmly rooted in the tradition of German Realism and consists of industrial landscapes and everyday events depicted on canvas like freeze-frame shots from a film or individual panels from a comic strip. The jury was won over by the “hallucinatory atmosphere of the archetypical human figures and desolate utopian locations” in his work. It felt that the “alluring, provocative, yet detached” nature of the work compelled the viewer to study it closely. The show at the Bonnefantenmuseum featured more than sixty of Neo Rauch’s works, produced between 1993 and 2000. Rauch also presented an accompanying exhibition of works by his favourite comic strip artists: Rauch’s Favourites: Mosaik – Blake & Mortimer – Eightball.
In 2000, the international jury chaired by Sir Nicholas Serota (director of the Tate) nominated the following artists: Eija-Liisa Ahtila (Finland), Miroslaw Balka (Poland), Oladélé Ajiboyé Bamgboyé (Nigeria but living and working in London), Carsten Höller (Belgium but living and working in Cologne), Pedro Cabrita Reis (Portugal) and Luc Tuymans (Belgium). The works submitted by the nominees were put on show for six months in an exhibition entitled The Vincent 2000 and held at the Bonnefantenmuseum in Maastricht. Finnish artist Eija-Liisa Ahtila became the first winner of the Vincent Award.
The jury awarded the prize to Ahtila because of her “distinctive new grammar for the moving image” in her work and “the extreme precision with which she uses the medium of video”. In that year’s award exhibition, Ahtila showed two videos: Anne, Aki & God (1998) and Today (1996/97). Her work falls somewhere between the video installation and the short film, with small human dramas unfolding within it. Ahtila edits her characters’ observations, emotions and fantasies to form parallel storylines devoid of chronological logic. The result is a hybrid world in which fantasy and reality meet and mingle.