The recipients of the 20th PRAEMIUM IMPERIALE

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

The Japan Art Association proudly announces the recipients of the 20th PRAEMIUM IMPERIALE as follows:

Richard Hamilton Painting

Ilya & Emilia Kabakov Sculpture

Peter Zumthor Architecture

Zubin Mehta Music

Sakata Tojuro Theatre/film

The artists are recognized and awarded for their achievements, for the impact they have had internationally on the arts, and for their role in enriching the global community. Each recipient receives 15 million yen (c. $140,000), and a diploma and medal presented by honorary patron of the Japan Art Association Prince Hitachi in an awards ceremony in Tokyo. The awards ceremony will be held in Tokyo on October 15th, 2008.

The Praemium Imperiale is the world's largest and most prestigious arts prize in the five disciplines of Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, Music and Theatre/film. Now in its 20th year, the Praemium Imperiale has grown to become a powerful voice for the importance of the arts in today’s world. It gives international recognition to the arts-much in the same way as the Nobel Prizes do in the Sciences. The 2008 laureates join a roster of 98 artists, including Ingmar Bergman, Leonard Bernstein, Peter Brook, Anthony Caro, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Norman Foster, Frank Gehry, Jean-Luc Godard, David Hockney, Willem de Kooning, Akira Kurosawa, Renzo Piano, Robert Rauschenberg, Mstislav Rostropovich, and Ravi Shankar.

International Advisors organized embargoed press announcements at each city between September 10 to September 16. On September 16, the large-scale retrospective of Ilya & Emilia Kabakov opened at the "Melnikov Garage"and other venues in Moscow under the sponsorship of the Russian Ministry of Culture, the National Pushkin Museum, Iris Foundation and billionaire Roman Abramovich, among others. Mr. Shigeaki Hazama, chairman of the Praemium Imperiale executive committee, attended the Kabakovs’press conference of the retrospective to announce their being selected as the recipients.


The Grant for Young Artists was awarded to:

Italian Youth Orchestra

The award was announced on September 16th at a press conference held at the Italian Senate in Rome, presided over by International Advisor Lamberto Dini. At the press conference, Mr. Hisashi Hieda, acting chairman of the Japan Art association, gave the diploma and grant of 5 million yen (c.$46,000) to representatives of the Italian Youth Orchestra to assist efforts to help young musicians.

The 2008 Praemium Imperiale recipients are:

Richard Hamilton
Born February 24, 1922/London, UK

Born in London in 1922. Made his debut as an artist after attending several art schools. In 1956, he produced the collage ,Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing?to launch the pop art era ahead of the American pop artists. Since then, he has remained creative in numerous genres such as woodblock prints, collage and design. Inspired by French-born artist Marcel Duchamp, champion of iconoclastic "anti-art" Hamilton’s work sometimes contains political messages; recently, he criticized British involvement in Iraq with Shock and Awe, showing former Prime Minister Tony Blair in a cowboy-style gunman pose. Hamilton’s studio in Oxfordshire is kitted out with a large printer and several computers, and even at the age of 86, his enthusiasm for creativity shows no sign of waning.

Ilya & Emilia Kabakov
Ilya: Born September 30, 1933/USSR(present-day Ukraine)
Emilia: Born December 3, 1945/USSR(present-day Ukraine)

The Kabakovs are internationally active as creators of "total installations", using pictures, objects, text, sound and other elements. Both were born in the Ukraine when it was still part of the former Soviet Union. During the socialist era, Ilya started his career as a book illustrator, "the only field in which I could make use of what I had studied." He established a reputation for the intricacy of his drawing, but was also a figurehead for "unofficial artistic activity" to evade censorship by the authorities. In the 1980s, his works started to be exhibited in the west, and installations such as The Communal Kitchenstarted to attract interest as a uniquely satirical critique of life in the former Soviet Union. The themes he pursues with his wife Emilia are always "people who try to live an ordinary life under abnormal conditions." Their attitude of being "linked to the emotions and reactions of ordinary people" are sure to find support across eras and national boundaries.

Peter Zumthor
Born April 26, 1943/Basel, Switzerland

Zumthor earnestly examines the location and purpose of a building, and spares no effort in selecting the most suitable materials for it. He insists on "custom-made architecture." After working on the restoration of historical buildings in southeastern Switzerland, he became independent as an architect. He still has his studio in the small village of Haldenstein. His works can mainly be found in Switzerland but also elsewhere in Europe. Whether religious buildings, art museums, thermal bath facilities or housing projects, they consistently give a strong sense of spirituality. Kolumba, Art Museum of the Archbishopric Cologne, which opened in Cologne last year, expresses the continuity of history from Roman times by making use of a ruined area. The use of light and shade would be equally at home in Japanese author Junichiro Tanizaki’s "In Praise of Shadows."

Zubin Mehta
Born April 29, 1936/ Bombay, India

Zubin Mehta is blessed with a rich musicality backed by knowledge and experience, a broad repertoire, and a personality that is loved by all. Indeed, he is seen by some as the greatest conductor of his day. While his forte lies in the large-scale symphonic works of Wagner, Mahler, Richard Strauss and others, he also displays an excellent interpretation of opera. He speaks positively about contemporary music and its contribution to the development of music. He has conducted many orchestras in a career spanning half a century, but his relationship with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO), which he serves as Music Director for Life, is particularly strong. His humanitarian efforts have won him high praise, notably his concerts with IPO where Arabs and Jews are brought together in a prayer for peace in the Middle East.

Sakata Tojuro
Born December 31, 1931/ Kyoto,Japan

With his rich onnagata(male actor who plays female roles) charms, profound understanding of drama and massive stage presence, Sakata Tojuro is the foremost Kabuki actor of the modern age. His repertoire is broad, ranging from nimaime (lovers) to tateoyama (leading onnagata) in the Kamigata (Osaka-Kyoto) wagoto (gentle) style. Tojuro has performed overseas on numerous occasions, bringing to global audiences the drama and unique beauty of Kabuki. Tojuro made his debut in 1941 under the name Nakamura Senjaku II. In 2005, he adopted the stage name of Sakata Tojuro in memory of Sakata Tojuro I, founder of the Kamigata wagoto style in the 18th century. By doing so, he became a symbol of Kamigata Kabuki in both name and substance. "Just as the first Tojuro created the art of wagoto, I want to create my own style of performance," says Tojuro. The heroine Ohatsu in "Sonezaki Shinju(Double Suicide in Sonezaki)" is a lifelong tour de force that Tojuro has performed more than 1,200 times in all. Tojuro founded the "Chikamatsu-za" touring troupe to perform plays by the 18th century author of that work, Chikamatsu Monzaemon. As he reaches his 77th birthday, he aims for yet greater heights of performing art.