[NEWS] James Turrell and Sebastião Salgado Win $137,000 Praemium Imperiale Award, Japanese art prize

September 16, 2021 

Installation view, james Turrell, February 11 - Aug 14, 2020. Courtesy Pace Gallery, James Turrell. Photo: Damiam Griffiths 

Sometimes referred to as the "Nobel Prize of the Arts, "The Japan Art Association’s Praemium Imperiale award, has gone to sculptor James Turrell and photographer Sebastião Salgado this year. The other winners are the Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado (Painting), the UK-born architect Glenn Murcutt (Architecture) and the French cellist Yo-Yo Ma (Music) who also receive 15 million Yen (£100,000) each. There is no award in the Theatre/Film category this year due to the impact of Covid-19.


The Praemium Imperiale is a global arts prize awarded annually by the Japan Art Association. Since its inauguration in 1988, it has become a mark of the arts. Six nomination committees, each chaired by an International Advisor, propose candidates in five fields: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, Music and Theatre/Film.


James Turrell said, I am grateful to receive the Praemium Imperiale and feel its international reputation is deserved and enhanced by its previous recipients. It is a vital part of Japan’s role in making an international culture.” Turrell has been widely recognized for his grand installations that make use of elegant plays of light. In 2013, for example, he transformed the Guggenheim Museum in New York with his monumental installation Aten Reign, through which the institution’s Frank Lloyd Wright–designed rotunda came to resemble a series of colorful concentric ovals via scrims and lights. His works invite viewers to contemplate the use of light and often fully immerse visitors in large-scale installations. Turrell’s works have “consistently explored the relationship between light and perception”, says a prize statement. The artist has also been working on an ambitious land art project, Roden Crater—begun in 1979—which will transform the inside of an extinct volcanic crater in northern Arizona into a viewing observatory.

From Sebastiao Salgado's "Genesis" project: "Since elephants are hunted by poachers in Zambia, they are scared of humans and vehicles. 

Alarmed when they see an approaching car, they usually run quickly into the bush. Kafue National Park. Zambia. 2010." (Courtesy of Salgado)


Sebastião Salgado expressed, I feel very honored to be given this distinction because I have always felt close to Japan and have the utmost respect for Japanese culture. As a Brazilian, I can say that Japan matters a great deal to us.” Salgado is known for his black-and-white photographs that attempt to visualize climate change, often by picturing places, species, and peoples that are being rapidly reshaped by global warming. The photographer has worked for renowned photo agencies, including Gamma in France, as well as Magnum Photos, and his work has appeared in books and exhibitions all over the world.



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