Austin museum picks winner of $800,000 art prize

New York-based Nicole Eisenman’s art will be seen here in 2020.


The Contemporary Austin has named New York-based artist Nicole Eisenman as winner of the 2020 Suzanne Deal Booth/FLAG Art Foundation Prize.

By far Austin’s largest art award — and one of the biggest in the country — it is now valued at $800,000, including $200,000 in cash, plus twinned exhibitions here and in New York, as well as publications and travel.

Started in 2016 by Booth, a top Austin art collector and backer, the initial $100,000 cash prize was awarded to Los Angeles-based Rodney McMillian. His 2018 exhibition, “Against a Civic Death,” is still on view at the Jones Center on Congress Avenue through Aug. 26. It takes the viewer on a journey through the nation’s racial history and includes a haunting video downstairs, as well as symbolically charged black-and-white objects upstairs.

RELATED: Exhibit explores the architecture and politics of race

Eisenman, a MacArthur Foundation fellow, combines more familiar practices of figurative painting, drawing and sculpture with elements of punk sensibility and emotional rawness, as well as feminist and queer activism. First noticed in the 1990s, her often allegorical work also delves into the realms of photography and collage.

“Nicole Eisenman is an artist with whom I’ve wanted to work for years,” said Heather Pesanti, chief curator and director of curatorial affairs at the Contemporary Austin. “So it’s incredibly exciting that the advisory committee selected her for this next prize. In particular, Nicole’s recent turn to three-dimensional work is a testament to this next chapter: her anti-monumental and enigmatic sculptures bring the painted bodies from her canvases into three-dimensional space.”

A solo exhibition of Eisenman’s art will premiere in Austin in February 2020 at the Contemporary’s downtown space, with an option to extend it to the museum’s 14-acre sculpture park at Laguna Gloria.

Just three months ago, the Booth Art Prize doubled in monetary value with the addition of a commitment from the New York-based FLAG Art Foundation, founded in 2008 by art patron Glenn Fuhrman. A related showing of Eisenman’s 2020 prize exhibition from Austin will be seen at the foundation’s space in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan in the fall of 2020.

“I am thrilled with the selection of Nicole Eisenman,” said Louis Grachos, executive director and CEO of the Contemporary, “and I look forward to the new work that the prize will enable her to present to the art world and the general public.”



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