The billionaire Nicolas Berggruen may be best known in the art world as a collector, buying up works by Ed Ruscha, Mike Kelley, Gerhard Richter, and many more, but the former ARTnews Top 200 collector has also used his fortune to found the Berggruen Institute, a politically oriented think tank that awards a $1 million prize each year. The 2019 winner of that award is one of the foremost figures in American politics today: U.S. Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Since its inception, in 2016, the prize has gone to philosophers, such as Charles Taylor and Martha C. Nussbaum. In that way, Ginsburg, who has advocated for women’s rights first as a lawyer, then as a number of important Supreme Court decisions over the years, marks a first for the institute.
Ginsburg was selected from a pool of 500 nominees for the award, and she said in a statement that she will give the funds from the prize to a nonprofit organization. The 2019 Berggruen Prize jury, which was chaired by Kwame Anthony Appiah, a professor of philosophy and law at New York University, included neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, philosopher David Chalmers, University of Pennsylvania president Amy Gutmann, writer and activist Elif Shafak, and Wang Hui, a professor in the department of Chinese literature at Tsinghua University in Beijing.
“By grit and determination, brains, courage, compassion and a fiery commitment to justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg rose from modest beginnings to become one of the most respected, and most beloved, jurists of our time,” Gutmann said in a statement. “Justice Ginsburg has few peers in advancing the cause of human equality through the law.”
Justice Ginsburg became the second woman appointed to the Supreme Court in 1993. Prior to that, she cofounded the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union in 1971 and served as the ACLU’s general counsel from 1973 to 1980. In 2016, a collection of Justice Ginsburg’s writings, titled My Own Words, was released, and in 2018, she was the subject of two films: the documentary RBG and the feature film On the Basis of Sex.