The Lise Wilhelmsen Art Award, one of the world’s largest art prizes, has named Brooklyn-based artist Guadalupe Maravilla as the second-ever winner of its $100,00 purse. As part of winning of the prize, Maravilla will have a solo show next year at the Henie Onstad Kunstsenter in Høvikodden, Norway, which administers the award.
Marvailla’s interdisciplinary practice looks at how healing—from trauma, displacement, and illness—might be achieved through nature and sound. He was recently the subject of a major exhibition presenting new works at Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens, titled “Planeta Abuelx.” For that show, the artist planted vegetables and medicinal herbs around his sculptures, and staged sound baths in the park.
Those works, and his practice as a whole, draw on Maravilla’s own life story. Maravilla was born in El Salvador in 1976, and later migrated from the country when he was 8 years as an unaccompanied minor during the country’s civil war, in the 1980s. When he was 35, in 2011, he was diagnosed with stage-three colon cancer and has been cancer-free since 2013.
In a statement, the jury that selected Maravilla for the prize wrote, “Maravilla’s work is also far more than his life. Building on personal narratives but venturing far afield into pre-Columbian mythologies, collective memory, geopolitical history, and material culture, the artist constructs artworks that act. His sculptures and elaborate constructions are also performative tools; he collaborates with others to create interactive wall drawings; he has choreographed a motorcycle gang chorus, and crossed the Rio Grande using one of his artworks as a flotation device.”
That jury included María Inés Rodríguez, a curator at large at the Museu de Arte de São Paulo; Museum of Modern Art curator Michelle Kuo; and Elvira Dyangani Ose, the incoming director of MACBA, Barcelona; as well as the Henie Onstad Kunstsenter chief curator Caroline Ugelstad; director Tone Hansen; and Paulina Rider Wilhelmsen, a family member of the prize’s namesake. The first prize was awarded in 2019 to Otobong Nkanga.
In July, Maravilla was announced as one of the 15 inaugural recipients of the Latinx Artist Fellowship, which is part of joint initiative by the Ford Foundation and the Mellon Foundation. He currently has work on view in the exhibition “Crip Time” at the MMK in Frankfurt, and is set to show sculptures later this month in MoMA’s permanent collection galleries.
For Art in America’s September/October 2021 issue, Maravilla created a print version of one of his “Retablo” paintings. In an interview with A.i.A., he said “Before [the pandemic], when I would talk about healing, only certain people were interested—usually those who were really spiritual, or people who had been through a lot of trauma,” adding that he wants to “provid[e] healing to undocumented or marginalized communities, as well as those who have cancer or other illnesses, because healing has become a commodity, and the people who need it most have the least access to it.”