April 4, 2019
The Brooklyn Museum features artists from around the world, but for its first ever artist’s prize, the more than a century-old institution is keeping it local.
This June, the museum will award a $25,000 prize to an emerging artist who works or lives in Brooklyn. Along with the money, the winner gets a solo exhibition in the museum and the opportunity to create a 50-foot public installation on the facade of a new art storage facility in the Bushwick section of the borough.
Anne Pasternak, the museum’s director, called the prize an “extraordinary opportunity” to honor Brooklyn artists and help elevate emerging talent “to the next stage in their career.”
Ms. Pasternak said she and her team of curators have been researching dozens of local artists and will soon narrow the competition to three finalists, who will each submit a proposal for a museum exhibition and the facade installation.
They are looking for an artist who is creating “exciting work” but hasn’t had any major museum or gallery shows, Ms. Pasternak said, so the prize “can be transformative for them.”
In an art market that is increasingly more valuable, and crowded—last year global art sales rose to $67.4 billion, up 6% from 2017, according to an Art Basel and UBS report—the museum’s new prize is a way to identify emerging artists and help “funnel them through the system to the top,” said Lisa Schiff, a longtime art adviser for private collectors and founder of SFA Advisory.
“There’s got to be ways to contextualize these artists,” Ms. Schiff said. “Museum prizes are looking for the most to-date kind of work and they can end up defining movements as well.”
The prize can also help the Brooklyn Museum in a time that is “increasingly challenging for arts institutions to fundraise,” she added. “It brings visitors, it brings attention—it ups the cool factor.”
Called the UOVO prize after its sponsor, a fine arts storage company, the award is slated to be given annually.
UOVO, which opened its first storage facility in Long Island City in 2014, is preparing to open a fourth location, a 150,000-square-foot space in Bushwick. The prize winner will create a display for the front of the Bushwick warehouse, and the installation will be switched out each year with the new winner’s artwork.
The chairman and founder of UOVO, Steven Guttman, approached the Brooklyn Museum with the idea for an annual prize. Mr. Guttman—who is also chairman of the Centre Pompidou foundation, a nonprofit that supports the esteemed French art institution—said he and his UOVO team will leave the selection process for the prize winner “up to the experts at the Brooklyn Museum.”
The museum plans to announce the inaugural winner in June, with the first installation appearing on the Bushwick warehouse when it opens in the fall. The museum show will follow in early 2020.
Art institutions tend to “err on the side of young artists,” when they consider emerging artists, Ms. Pasternak said, but age isn’t a consideration for their prize.
“We certainly wouldn’t exclude someone who’s underrecognized and 80 years old,” she said.