Jac Leirner Wins Museum Ludwig’s Wolfgang Hahn Prize

Jac Leirner with her 1980 work Chair.


The Museum Ludwig in Cologne, Germany, has awarded its 2019 Wolfgang Hahn Prize to Jac Leirner. As the winner of this year’s award, which is given annually to a contemporary artist, Leirner will now receive a show at the institution, which will also add the São Paulo–based artist’s work to its collection. A maximum sum of €100,000 (about $115,000) will also be awarded to Leirner, though the exact amount she will be receiving was not specified in a release. Leirner’s win marks the first time the prize has gone to a South American artist.

Leirner is well known for her sculptures and installations that explore what the artist has called the “infinity of materials”—the ways in which objects are collected and reformulated so that they have personal resonance for their owners. In her work, quotidian materials, such as bags, cigarette boxes, and luggage tags, are arranged into minimalist patterns intended to change how viewers understand the items’ roles in the world.

Occasionally, she directs her attention toward the art world itself—for the 1985/2018 work Museum Bags, which will be added to the Museum Ludwig’s holdings through funds from Cologne’s Society for Modern Art, plastic bags from various institutions’ shops are collaged together, such that they no longer serve their original purpose.

In a statement, Jochen Volz, the director of the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo and a guest juror for this year’s prize, said, “Jac Leirner is one of the most important exponents of Conceptual Art today as well as of so-called Institutional Critique. Since the 1980s her sculptures, paintings, and installations have questioned the notion of the original and the value of artworks.”

Volz was joined on the jury by Yilmaz Dziewior, the director of the Museum Ludwig, and members of the Society for Modern Art’s executive board.

Past winners of the Wolfgang Hahn Prize include Andrea Fraser (2013), Fischli/Weiss (2010), Kerry James Marshall (2014), Cindy Sherman (1997), and Haegue Yang (2018).

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