English and Spanish may be South Florida’s dominant languages, but there’s a French connection at Art Basel in Miami Beach. The French Professional Committee of Art Galleries and Villa Albertine—a network of artist residency programmes across the US created by the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs—awarded their $20,000 Etant donnés Prize to artist Julien Creuzet in a ceremony on 29 November at the Miami Beach Botanical Garden.
A Paris-based artist from the French Caribbean island of Martinique, Creuzet has works on view at the fair on the stands of both High Art and Andrew Kreps (he also shows with Chicago-based gallery Document Space). “Receiving an award in Miami is important: this geography is a crossroads of history,” the artist said. “I’m thinking of all the men and women artists of Afro-diaspora culture, I’m thinking of the French Caribbean scene which for a very long time lacked light.”
Creuzet’s practice focuses on symbols and images that resonate across eras and cultures, which he renders from shaped metal hand-coated in colourful plastic, textiles and found materials. His work on the High Art stand, which was still available the morning after the prize-giving ceremony and priced at €30,000, includes the outline of a cactus, a form used across multiple civilisations to represent mankind and a common symbol for the sun, among other references.
“Julien always makes connections across Caribbean cultures,” says High Art co-director Philippe Joppin. “This work is from a series of three that he considers as amulets of sorts to protect against lack of water.”
This year’s edition of the prize—named after Marcel Duchamp’s infamous installation Étants donnés: 1. La chute d'eau, 2. Le gaz d'éclairage (1946-66), which is in the permanent collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art—was awarded following an open call that was open to any gallery at Art Basel in Miami Beach showing at least one piece by a French or France-based artist. Fourteen galleries applied, and a jury that included collectors Catherine Petitgas and León Amitai, as well as Buffalo AKG Art Museum chief curator Cathleen Chaffee.
Creuzet is the prize’s second winner, following a three-year Covid-19 hiatus. It was first awarded at New York’s The Armory Show in 2019, to Paris-based Canadian artist Kapwani Kiwanga.