Though she’s long been loved among a certain politically active crowd, 71-year-old artist Cecilia Vicuña has never had as much visibility in the art world as she does now. She was nominated for the Guggenheim Museum’s prestigious Hugo Boss Prize on Tuesday, and her work figures in the Museum of Modern Art’s rehang that debuted last month. Add to these accolades and honors one more: Spain’s most prominent art award.
The 2019 Premio Velázquez de Artes Plásticas, an award given out by the Spanish Ministry of Culture to an artist based in the country or from the Ibero-American Community of Nations, has gone to Vicuña, who will now receive €100,000 (about $110,700). The jury said in a statement that she is receiving the award for her “outstanding work as a poet, visual artist and activist” and her “multidimensional art that interacts with the earth, written language, and weaving.”
Vicuña’s art has taken a variety of forms, from paintings of political strife—a fine portrait of Karl Marx by her is now on view at the Guggenheim Museum in New York—to sculptural installations meditating on the transmission of Indigenous knowledge and histories. Her work recently appeared in the landmark survey “Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960–1985,” which first showed at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles in 2017, and in Documenta 14. A traveling survey is currently touring the world, with a stop next in December at the Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami, and another exhibition of her work is due to open at the Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporáneo in Mexico City next year.
Vicuña, who was born in Santiago de Chile and is now based in New York, has also worked prolifically as a writer of poetry and activist texts. For a recent statement sent to ARTnews, she addressed the protests in Chile, writing, “The beauty of this movement is that it feels as an awakening expressed in joyful and peaceful massive protests emerging in every corner.”