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James Turrell and Sebastião Salgado among international recipients of £400,000 Japanese art prize

Japan Art Association drew up the all-male winners list for award dubbed ‘Nobel Prize for the Arts’

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Sebastião Salgado (left) and James Turrell are among the all-male laureates for this year's Praemium Imperiale Award

Sebastião Salgado (left) and James Turrell are among the all-male laureates for this year's Praemium Imperiale Award

The US artist James Turrell has been awarded the 2021 Praemium Imperiale Award for “sculpture”, which comes with a £100,000 prize pot. He is among four international recipients of the award, presented by the Japan Art Association, under its honorary patron, Prince Hitachi. The other winners are the Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado (Painting), the UK-born architect Glenn Murcutt (Architecture) and the French cellist Yo-Yo Ma (Music) who also receive 15 million Yen (£100,000) each. There is no award in the Theatre/Film category this year due to the impact of Covid-19.

Turrell’s works have “consistently explored the relationship between light and perception”, says a prize statement. The artist has also been working on an ambitious land art project, Roden Crater—begun in 1979—which will transform the inside of an extinct volcanic crater in northern Arizona into a viewing observatory. Salgado’s photographs from his Amazônia series—a seven-year study of the Amazon ecosystem—are due to go on show at London’s Science Museum next month (13 October-March 2022).

All “laureates” are selected from lists submitted by “international advisors” across a number of countries. These international committees propose names to the Japan Art Association; specialist committees in Tokyo convene and make the final selection. Current advisors include Lamberto Dini, the prime minister of Italy from 1995 to 1996, and Chris Patten, Chancellor of the University of Oxford. There are no women amongst this year’s recipients, though previous laureates have included Mona Hatoum, Rebecca Horn and Shirin Neshat.

A grant for Young Artists, also awarded annually by the Japan Art Association, goes this year to the Central Institute for Restoration in Rome and Matera, southern Italy. The award worth 5m Yen ($45,000) will fund 30 student research projects, enabling emerging restorers to carry out theoretical and practical studies in Italy and overseas.

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