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Japan’s highest art award awarded to photographer Sebastiao Salgado

Sometimes referred to as the “Nobel Prize of the Arts”, the Premium Imperiale is one of the most important art prizes in the world. Since its inception in 1988, it has been awarded every year by the Japan Art Association to artists and musicians at the top of their careers in five different categories, with the exception of 2020. Today, the 2021 winners were announced.

This year, the prize in the painting category goes to the Brazilian painter Sebastio Salgado. In the Sculpture and Architecture categories, American artist James Turrell and Australian architect Glenn Murcutt took home prizes.

The award in the Music category goes to Yo-Yo Ma, a US cellist and classical music pioneer. This year, however, no awards will be given in the theatre/film category, due to the effect of coronavirus global pandemic. The Young Artist Award goes to the School of Advanced Training for the Central Institute for Restoration (ICR) in Italy, which trains art restorers.

Sebastiao Salgado: Master of Black and White Photography

Sebastião Salgados is known for his black and white photographs that focus on the lives of people on the margins of society; especially in developing countries.

His lens has captured moments from the lives of gold miners in Brazil, scenes from the Second Gulf War, and indigenous peoples. 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 around the world.

The 77-year-old photographer has won numerous awards throughout his career, including the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade.

James Turrell: Light Artist Extraordinary

The primary medium of 78-year-old American artist James Turrell is light. His works invite viewers to consider the use of light and often completely immerse visitors in large-scale installations.

For Turrell, whose art is also influenced by philosophy, science, and his passion for flight, light is the material that “connects our inner life to the outside world.”

He is currently working on his large-scale work “Roden Crater,” which focuses on an extinct volcano in northern Arizona. The project is planned to be completed in 2026.

Glenn Murcutt: Pioneers of Sustainable Architecture

Glenn Murcutt has spent his architectural career designing sustainable buildings. Following the Australian Aborigines and their saying “touch the land gently”, the 85-year-old eco-friendly buildings blend with the landscape of their Australian homeland using indigenous materials.

As a result, the buildings in Murkat are modern, in harmony with nature. He is now the first Australian to be awarded the Premium Imperial.

Yo-Yo Ma: Open-minded collaborator

American cellist Yo-Yo Ma is considered one of the most extraordinary musicians of our time. The 18-time Grammy-winner is known for his fondness for musical collaboration, and has played with a number of prominent musicians.

He has also played several pieces by contemporary classical composers, including Asa-Pekka Salonen and John Williams. Last year, he comforted the world by releasing a music video of the solo interpretation of Dvorak’s “Goin’ Home,” which has since garnered over 18 million views. This year, the 65-year-old made a surprise move by playing “Ave Maria” in the waiting room of a vaccination center in Massachusetts.

preservation of artistic heritage

This year’s Young Artist Prize was awarded to The Istituto Superior per la Conservazione ad il Restauro (ICR), which was established in 1939 with the aim of preserving Italy’s cultural heritage – which was at the time during World War II. There was danger from the outbreak. Two years later, the first restoration course in Europe was held at the ICR.

Every year, 25 new students are admitted to the Center’s Advanced Training School, who work not only on the Rome and Matera campuses in Italy, but also on projects around the world, during the five-year master’s program.

Throughout its history, the institute has produced 900 specialized restorers. Some now work for high-profile institutions such as the Louvre, Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, and the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles.

The Premium Imperial is endowed with 15 million yen (€115,000). Past winners have included violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, actress Catherine Deneuve, designer Issie Miyake, director Martin Scorsese, choreographer Pina Bosch and painter Gerhard Richter.

This article was translated from German by Sarah Huckel.

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