Last week, Lawrence Abu Hamdan made headlines when he and his three fellow artist nominees shared the win for the 2019 Turner Prize, the United Kingdom’s top art award. Although he took that prize as a member of a collective, he’s now the sole winner of another major European art award.
The Munchmuseet, a soon-to-open museum dedicated to Edvard Munch in Oslo, has given its 2019 Edvard Munch Art Award to Abu Hamdan, who will receive 500,000 Norwegian kroner (about $63,000), a solo show at the institution, and a residency in the Norwegian capital. He is the third winner of the award, which is given biennially to an emerging artist who is younger than 40.
Abu Hamdan’s star has risen dramatically over the past few years, thanks to appearances in major biennials around the world, including the most recent editions of the Sharjah Biennial in the United Arab Emirates and the Venice Biennale in Italy. Working as a “private ear,” as he has called himself, the Beirut-based artist focuses on the sociopolitical implications of sound. For the Venice Biennale this year, he showed the video installation Walled Unwalled (2018), which meditates on several legal cases involving sounds heard through partitions.
In a statement, the prize’s jury said that it “values the artist’s commitment to human rights and his capacity to address urgent political subjects through his art.” That jury was chaired by Alfred Pacquement, director of the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and also included Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean director Suzanne Cotter, Mori Art Museum director Mami Kataoka, artist Ingar Dragset, and curator Simon Njami.
The Edvard Munch Art Award is but one in a series of accolades Abu Hamdan has picked up over the years. He’s also won the Abraaj Art Group Prize, a $100,000 award that recognizes artists in the Middle East, South Asia, and North Africa, and the Baloise Art Prize, an award facilitated by Art Basel.