In recognition of their achievements, for the impact they have had internationally on the arts, and for their role in enriching the global community, the Japan Art Association has announced William Kentridge (Painting), Mona Hatoum (Sculpture), Tod Williams & Billie Tsien (Architecture), Anne-Sophie Mutter (Music) and Bando Tamasaburo (Theatre/Film) as the Praemium Imperiale Laureates for 2019. A medal will be presented by Prince Hitachi, honorary patron of the Japan Art Association, in an awards ceremony held in Tokyo on 16 October 2019.
The Praemium Imperiale is a global arts prize awarded annually by the Japan Art Association in honour of His Imperial Highness Prince Takamatsu (1905 – 1987), the younger brother of Emperor Shōwa who reigned from 1926 to 1989. Prince Takamatsu was famous for his support of the development, promotion and progress of arts in the world.
In the early Meiji period (1868 – 1912), Japan was flooded with influences of Western civilization, and it seemed that Japanese arts and traditional crafts were in danger of disappearing. Emperor Meiji, deeply concerned with the situation, was determined to advance cultural and artistic efforts within Japan, and at the same time develop good relations with other countries.
The Emperor’s determination led to the establishment in 1879 of the organisation named The Ryuchi-kai with Sano Tsunetami, a prominent figure in the Meiji government, as the president, and a member of the Imperial Family as an honorary patron. The Ryuchi-kai became responsible for arts administration and also played a central role in conducting cultural activities of the Imperial Household.
In 1887, the Ryuchi-kai was reorganised and renamed the Japan Art Association. In the following year, an exhibition hall was inaugurated in Ueno Park. A total of 123 exhibitions were held in this hall between 1889 and 1943.
In 1972, the exhibition hall was named the Ueno Royal Museum, and a commemorative exhibition, 300 Years of Japanese Arts Spanning the Momoyama, Edo and Meiji Periods, was held. Since then, the museum has played an active role and has hosted many exhibitions of traditional arts, and of art from abroad, such as the exhibition of masterworks from the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
In 1988, on the 100th anniversary of the Japan Art Association, the Praemium Imperiale was created in honour of the late Prince Takamatsu, who had served as honorary patron of the Association for 58 years. The first awards ceremony was held in Tokyo in 1989.
Prince Takamatsu’s wish that Japan should promote world peace through the arts is the central guideline of the Japan Art Association.
Since its inauguration in 1988, the award has become one of the most prestigious honours in the arts. The laureates are annually recommended by international advisors, and decided by an anonymous committee of the Japan Art Association. The advisors include Lamberto Dini, Christopher Patten, Klaus-Dieter Lehmann, Jean-Pierre Raffarin and Caroline Kennedy. Honorary advisors include Jacques Chirac, David Rockefeller Jr, François Pinault, William H Luers and Yasuhiro Nakasone. Each laureate receives an honorarium of 15 million yen and a testimonial letter.
William Kentridge is the second South African to be awarded the prize, after Athol Fugard became the first African winner in 2014 as the Laureate for Film/Theatre. Kentridge is an extraordinary visual artist who uses drawing, film, performance, music and sculpture to probe the ideas and conventions of our world; seeking its hidden truths and dismantling its false certainties. His diverse output resonates widely, and after 40 years, his search for a truer world still drives him.
Mona Hatoum is a British Palestinian artist whose poetic and political oeuvre is realised in a diverse and often unconventional range of media, including installation, sculpture, video, photography and works on paper. Constantly in demand, Hatoum’s works feature in major contemporary art collections and exhibitions.
New York-based architects, Tod Williams and Billie Tsien have been working together since 1977, establishing their renowned practice, Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects in 1986. Throughout their body of work, no matter the complexity, they retain the values of their practice and endeavour to leave good marks upon the Earth.
German-born musician Anne-Sophie Mutter is considered to be one of the world’s greatest contemporary violinists. In her strong charity engagement, she gives regular benefit concerts, helping the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake and the children in Yemen, to name but a few.
In the traditional world of Japanese kabuki theatre, Bando Tamasaburo is already legendary – considered to be one of its most important leading onnagata actors. Revealing a constantly inquiring creative mind, he has extended his scope to include international and non-kabuki pieces; performing in Okinawa’s Kumiodori, Chinese Kunqu opera, collaborating with cellist Yo-Yo Ma, dancer/choreographer Maurice Béjart and film director Andrzej Wajda.
In addition, each year The Grant for Young Artists is announced. This year, Démos, a musical education programme run by the Philharmonie de Paris, was awarded the Grant of 5 million yen to assist its efforts to help young artists.
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