First French art prize for female artists awarded 

Inaugural AWARE award went to Laetitia Badaut Haussmann and Judit Reigl


France's culture ministry has lent support to a women's contemporary art prize launched by AWARE (Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions), founded by Camille Morineau, the new director of the Monnaie de Paris. In January, French culture minister Audrey Azoulay awarded the prize at the ministry in Paris to two artists, 36-year-old Laetitia Badaut Haussmann, who creates photographic prints and sculptures, and 93-year-old painter Judit Reigl.

Morineau asked four art professionals to each propose two women artists: an emerging artist and an artist whose career began 20 years ago. Works by the eight nominated artists are exhibited in the windows of the culture ministry until 31 March 2017.

“Invisible for too long, put in the background, ignored, women artists must find in the 21st-century their place in all the artistic disciplines,” said Azoulay in a statement. At the awards ceremony, she expressed the need “to deconstruct and reconstruct our outlook on the history of art and to recall the role of women and bring it the critical, intellectual attention that it deserves”.

Morineau conceived the prize after observing that women are under-represented among artists who win important prizes and represent between 20-30% of artists selected for France's Prix Marcel Duchamp and Britain's Turner Prize. She realised that there was no women's art prize in France, unlike the Max Mara Art Prize in Britain or the Gabriele Münter Preis in Germany.

This is the first official edition, although it was piloted in association with Marie-Claire magazine in 2014—the year when Morineau founded AWARE, which is financed by the Fondation Chanel and public funding.

Morineau has long been a staunch supporter of women artists. She curated the exhibition Elles at the Centre Pompidou in 2011 and its retrospective on Niki de Saint Phalle. “I requested grants from the culture ministry for three years and received exceptional support from Audray Azoulay, which was not the case of the ministers before,” she says, adding that the ministry financed AWARE's website.

“We so often think of women as maids, mothers and muses and there are eight extraordinary practising artists celebrated this evening,” said Tate Modern director Frances Morris, one of the members of the jury presided by former Centre Pompidou director Alfred Pacquement.