The Paris-born, Brooklyn-based artist Yto Barrada has won the biennial Queen Sonja Print Award (QSPA), the world’s largest prize for graphic art worth NOK 1m (around $106,000).
Barrada was commended for her “continuous search for new forms of expressions, pushing the boundaries of her own practice and our understanding of printmaking and graphic art”. The artist’s work is also “informed by postcolonial thought and socio-political concerns”, say the judges. Barrada’s film installation A Day is a Day (2022) features in this year’s Whitney Biennial (Quiet as It’s Kept, until 5 September).
This year’s judging panel includes the Australian curator Rachel Kent, Pablo del Val, the artistic director of the Art Dubai fair, and the Chinese artist Qiu Zhijie. There is no age limit for the prize while “no printing technique or way of expression is to be excluded as long as the printing element is apparent”.
The Queen Sonja Art Foundation—established in 2011 to promote all forms of printmaking—also announced two other awards: the QSPA Lifetime Achievement Award was given to the South African artist William Kentridge because “printmaking has been central to his artistic practice for the last 40 years, [and is] an integral part in his experimentation with various mediums, techniques and disciplines”.
The QSPA Inspirational Award meanwhile goes to the indigenous Sami artist (northern Norway), Meerke Vekterli. The judges say in a statement that Vekterli uses “more traditional techniques, insightfully rooted in a South Sami handicraft tradition, [which] are explored and mixed with newer techniques”. This award includes a cash prize of NOK 50,000 (around $5,000).
In an interview with The Art Newspaper in 2018, Queen Sonja of Norway explained why she was drawn to the medium. “I think it has something to do with Edvard Munch because he tried out all different ways of printmaking,” she said. The royal even makes her own print works, setting aside dedicated periods “three or four times a year, of three to five days. It’s very intense.”
The QSPA began as a Nordic award before going global in 2014. Previous recipients include Tauba Auerbach from New York (2016), the Japanese-Canadian artist Emma Nishimura, (2018) and Ottawa-born Ciara Phillips (2020). It was “an amazing launch pad; there’s not another award at this scale or international recognition for printmakers”, said Nishimura.