The Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland will start a new artist award called Toby’s Prize. Named for the collector Toby Devan Lewis, a longtime board member at the museum, the biennial juried prize comes with $50,000.
The winning artist will be commissioned by MOCA Cleveland, a non-collecting institution, to create a new work, and the museum will put together a solo exhibition and publication dedicated to the artist. MOCA Cleveland plans to announce the inaugural winner next spring, with the accompanying exhibition slated to open in 2019.
The first Toby’s Prize exhibition will coincide with MOCA Cleveland’s 50th anniversary. Jill Snyder, the museum’s executive director, explained that the creation of the award was partly a way to further the pioneering spirit kicked off by the museum’s three founders—Agnes Gund, Nina Sundell, and Marjorie Talalay—who turned MOCA Cleveland into what she called “a portal between avant-garde community in New York and what was being shown in Cleveland.”
Building on an exhibitions program that has included commissions by Sara VanDerBeek, Tony Lewis, and others, Toby’s Prize, which was founded after Lewis gave a gift to MOCA Cleveland, now aims to offer artists a way of creating major works. “This has been [Lewis’s] passion, to creative expression and risk,” Snyder said. “It really is very much in the spirit of working with artists to create work and take risks by giving the means to make the work.”