Although Pope.L’s pungent Whitney Biennial installation may have put some visitors off, its sickly sweet smell didn’t stop the Whitney Museum from naming the Chicago-based artist the winner of this year’s Bucksbaum Award. Given each Biennial year to one participant in the show, the Bucksbaum Award comes with a $100,000 grant and a future exhibition at the museum.
For this year’s Biennial, Pope.L staged Claim (Whitney Version), 2017, an immersive installation including 2,755 slices of bologna that, over the course of the show’s run, has cured and gradually leaked juices into basins at the bottom of the piece. Pinned to the installation’s walls, each bologna slice has affixed to it a photocopied picture of a New Yorker photographed at random. The number of bologna slices is said to represent the percentage of Jews in New York, but Pope.L confessed to his methodology deliberately being “a bit off” in a text hung on a wall next to a bottle of MD 20/20.
“The Bucksbaum Award recognizes extraordinary artists whose works are inventive, urgent, and promise to be enduring,” Mary E. Bucksbaum Scanlan—the daughter of the prize’s namesake, Melva Bucksbaum, who died in 2015—said in a statement. “I am proud that this tradition continues with the first Biennial in the Whitney’s downtown home by honoring Pope.L, a singular artist in a class of his own.”
Past winners of the Bucksbaum Award include Zoe Leonard, who won for her contribution to the 2014 Whitney Biennial, as well as Raymond Pettibon, Omer Fast, and Michael Asher. The Whitney is planning a program devoted to Pope.L’s work for the fall, but details about it are not yet clear.