May 15, 2018

BelgianArtPrize's All-Male Shortlist Sparks Public Outcry

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM—More than 500 Belgian cultural figures have signed an open letter on in protest of the selection of four male artists as the nominees for the 2019 BelgianArtPrize. The signatories argue that the candidates—Sven Augustijnen, Koenraad Dedobbeleer, Gabriel Kuri, and the duo Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys—are not representative of the Belgian contemporary arts community.

Addressed to the La Jeune Peinture Belge, the nonprofit that has organized the biennial prize since 1950; members of the BelgianArtPrize’s 2019 jury; BOZAR, the Center of Fine Arts Brussels; and the sponsors of the award, the letter states that “the flagrant exclusivity” of this year’s finalists “raises consequential questions on how privilege might be distributed within it.”

By signing the letter, the arts professionals claim that they are distancing themselves from the values guiding this year’s shortlist of candidates. They are also demanding Belgian arts institutions make a “concerted effort to root out overt discrimination, not through nominal representation, but by acting to assimilate celebration of our diversity.”

The 2019 nominees were chosen by an international prize jury in April. Each artist will stage shows at the BOZAR in March of 2019, and the winner will be announced the following month. Last year’s laureate was Nigerian artist Otobong Nkanga and Belgian artist Maarten Vanden Eynde, who won the $12,000 ING Public Prize.

According to the prize’s website, in 2017 significant changes were made to “strengthen the international character of the BelgianArtPrize and its winners,” including the elimination of the award’s age limit. It also states that the $30,000 prize will aim to increase the visibility of its candidates through the organization of artist talks, conferences, and other events.

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