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Fine artist receives Vilcek Prize for “immigrants who have made lasting contribution to American society”


Nari Ward: Amazing Grace

Artist Nari Ward has been awarded the 2017 Vilcek Prize, given to immigrants who “have made lasting contributions to American society”. He will receive $100,000 and a trophy uniquely designed for each winner by Stefan Sagmeister.

Two prizes are given annually by the Vilcek Foundation, one for achievements in biomedical research and one for arts and humanities. This is the first time since 2006 the arts prize has been given to a fine artist, with previous awards going to practitioners in architecture, music, film, culinary arts, literature, dance, design, fashion and theatre. Next year’s prize will be awarded in architecture.

Jamaican-born artist Nari Ward is known for his found-object assemblage artworks such as Amazing Grace, which comprised 365 abandoned prams found in Harlem, arranged with pieces of fire hose into the shape of a ship’s hull, and accompanied by a recording of the song of the same name. This piece, like many of his works, aimed to reflect the issues faced by the neighbourhood’s local society such as race, poverty, immigration and diaspora identity.

He says he seeks to always acknowledge that “history is just a big fiction with different moments of truth, and that’s the thing that I really feel I am searching for, to create an object that has this rich dialogue of possibilities for the viewer”.

He has previously won the Joyce Award, the Rome Prize and an award from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation.


Nari Ward: Liberty and Orders.Courtesy Lehmann Maupin.


Nari Ward: Smart Tree. Courtesy Lehmann Maupin.


Nari Ward: Sun Splashed. Courtesy Lehmann Maupin.


Nari Ward. Courtesy LSU.