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Sam Pulitzer, Martha Atienza Win Baloise Art Prize at Art Basel

Installation view of Sam Pulitzer’s work in the booth of Real Fine Arts at Art Basel last week.

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Swiss insurance company the Baloise Group, which annually awards 30,000 Swiss francs (about $30,800 these days) each to two early-career artists in Art Basel’s Statements section, announced that this year’s winners are Sam Pulitzer, showing with Brooklyn outfit Real Fine Arts, and Martha Atienza, with Metro Manila of Manila, the Philippines. Baloise has also purchased works by the two artists, which will be donated to the Nationalgalerie Staatliche Museen zu Berlin and MUDAM in Luxembourg.

Pulitzer showed a series of precisely rendered drawings that are at the same time cute, cartoony, and menacing—one shows an owl winking above the words “TELL ME AGAIN HOW LUCKY I AM TO WORK HERE?” and another of a man holding two power cords attached to a battery, being electrocuted so that his body glows yellow and his skeleton becomes visible. These were held in place with screws on an installation of clear panels that suggest vitrines or, perhaps, futuristic prisons. Great stuff.

Atienza, meanwhile, showed a set of videos that, to quote the report from the Baloise jury, features “Christ carrying the cross, men in women’s clothes and demonstrators carrying tableaux with political slogans, threatened from behind by menacing, [and] armed henchman”—all taking place underwater. (The performer wore breathing equipment.) Also impressive.

The jury for this year’s prize was made up of Marie-Noëlle Farcy, the curator and head of collection at MUDAM in Luxembourg; Daniel Baumann, the director of the Kunsthalle Zurich; Sven Beckstette, curator at the Nationalgalerie Staatliche Museen zu Berlin; Zak Kyes, of the London graphic design firm the Zak Group; and Martin Schwander, the fine art advisor of Baloise, who chaired the panel.

Previous Baloise winners include Mary Reid Kelley (in 2016), Simon Denny (2012), Tris Vonna-Michell, Tino Sehgal (2004), and Laura Owens (2009).

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