Wolfgang Hahn Prize
A special award
With the Wolfgang Hahn Prize, the Gesellschaft für Moderne Kunst honours exceptional contemporary artists on an annual basis. The prize money of maximum 100.000 euros goes to the acquisition of a work or group of works by the artist for the collection of the Museum Ludwig. The award winners are also honoured with an exhibition in the museum, accompanied by a publication.
The criteria for selection are the consistent development of the artist’s oeuvre over a number of decades and international recognition among experts. An additional prerequisite is that the nominated artist is less known in Germany and that his or her work is not yet adequately represented in the collection of the Museum Ludwig.
The jury is comprised of the Director of the Museum Ludwig, a guest jury member, and the members of the Executive Board of the Gesellschaft für Moderne Kunst.
The name of the award honours the memory of the Cologne-based collector and painting conservator Wolfgang Hahn (1924–1987), who was committed on many levels to the art of the European and American Avant-Garde in Cologne. We continue to foster the spirit of his exemplary dedication as a collector, a founding member of our organisation, and head of the museum’s conservation workshops.
Since 2016, the BAUWENS Group and the auditing and consulting company Ebner Stolz support the evening surrounding the award ceremony and the publication accompanying the acquisition. From 2011 through 2015, the Wolfgang Hahn Prize was supported by the private bank Julius Bär.
Betye Saar 2020
Betye Saar will be awarded the twenty-sixth Wolfgang Hahn Prize from the Gesellschaft für Moderne Kunst. This recognition of the artist, who was born in Los Angeles in 1926 and is still little known in Germany, is highly timely, the jury consisting of Yilmaz Dziewior, director of the Museum Ludwig; Christophe Cherix, Robert Lehman Foundation chief curator of drawings and prints at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York; and the board members of the association decided. For more than fifty years, Betye Saar has created assemblages from a wide variety of found objects, which she combines with drawing, prints, painting, and photography.
Guest juror Christophe Cherix on Betye Saar: “Betye Saar’s work occupies a pivotal position in American art. Her assemblages from the 1960s and early 1970 sinterweave issues of race, politics, and supernatural belief systems with her personal history. Having grown up in a racially segregated society, Saar has long held that art can transcend our darkest moments and deepest fears. Today, the emergence of a new generation of artists mining her poignant legacy attests to how profoundly Saar has changed the course of American art. The 2020 Wolfgang Hahn Prize not only acknowledges her extraordinary achievements and influence, but also recognizes the need to revisit how the history of art in recent decades has been written.”
Jac Leirner 2019
In 2019, the Gesellschaft für Moderne Kunst am Museum Ludwig awarded the Wolfgang Hahn Prize to Jac Leirner. For many years now, the work of the Brazilian artist (b. 1961 in São Paulo) has engaged in a subtle analysis of social and representational systems. Found, often industrially produced everyday objects play an important role here; following the principle of collecting, accumulating, and classifying, Leirner uses them to create installations, collages, and sculptures.
Jochen Volz, director of the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo and guest juror for the 2019 Wolfgang Hahn Prize, explains the jury’s decision: “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. She assimilates found, collected, and even stolen objects, most of which are industrially produced. The work Museum Bags (1985/2018), for instance, consists of a collection of ordinary plastic bags that she purchased at various museum stores. Here, the bags, which are typically used by visitors to transport a souvenir from a public museum to their private space, become part of a large-scale collage.”
Haegue Yang 2018
In 2018, the Gesellschaft für Moderne Kunst am Museum Ludwig will recognize the artist Haegue Yang with the Wolfgang Hahn Prize.
Christina Végh, guest juror in 2018 and director of the Kestner Gesellschaft in Hanover, on the selection: “Haegue Yang exemplifies an artistic practice that does not merely continue to develop the concept of sculpture and installation. Rather, Yang places contradictory and often conflicting world views in the globalized world in relation to one another without playing one off against the other. She often uses industrially manufactured objects taken from everyday life, separates them from their respective function, and brings them together into large-scale new configurations. These precise placements mutate into abstract new structures in which cultural codes of East and West are placed in dialogue alongside and with one another, and a peculiar archaic element is brought to light.”
Trisha Donnelly 2017
The Gesellschaft für Moderne Kunst awarded the 2017 Wolfgang Hahn Prize to Trisha Donnelly.
Suzanne Cotter, director of the Serralves Museum of contemporary art in Porto stated: “The Wolfgang-Hahn Prize is one of the most inspiring awards for contemporary artists of its kind, and it is with enormous pleasure that the prize this year goes to Trisha Donnelly. Trisha Donnelly is without doubt one of the most compelling artists of our time whose work offers entirely new ways of experiencing and thinking about form, at once synaesthesic and disruptively transporting. As an artist, she occupies a position of committed resistance to the easy appropriation of art as something contained and ultimately controllable. At the same time, the extraordinary generosity of her work, that
touches on the visual – in particular the photographic – the spoken, the aural and the physical, is electrifying in its permission”
Huang Yong Ping 2016
The Gesellschaft für Moderne Kunst awarded the Wolfgang Hahn Prize 2016 to the Chinese artist Huang Yong Ping.
Doryun Chong, guest juror for the 2016 Wolfgang Hahn Prize and chief curator at M+ in Hong Kong, commented: “It is thrilling that the jury of the 2016 Wolfgang Hahn Prize has selected Huang Yong Ping. In his now more than three-decade-long career, which began in China in the 1980s and has continued and expanded in Europe and globally since the 1990s, he has traversed not only many countries and cultures, but also a fantastic range of topics and chronologies in his work. His oeuvre is a singular achievement noted for its often awe-inspiring physical grandeur, incredible iconography, and rigorous intellectualism, which alter our view of the world and sense of how we exist in history and in the world. He is both a masterful sculptor and a contemporary bard for our time.”
The Gesellschaft für Moderne Kunst acquired the work Mémorandum: Bat Project I, II, III, 2001-2003, 2004 for the Museum Ludwig.
Michael Krebber und R. H. Quaytman 2015
For the first time in the over twenty-year history of the Wolfgang Hahn Prize, and without the intent of making it a rule, in 2015 the award honored two artists: Michael Krebber and R. H. Quaytman.
Guest Juror Daniel Birnbaum, director of the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, commented: “The discussions within the jury were quite intense, centered on current issues regarding painting today. Quaytman and Krebber, independently from one another, have each produced an autonomous oeuvre over many years that, however, is also quite definitive for the future of painting and serves younger generations as a point of reference. The jury’s decision is very promising—Thomas Bernhard’s theater piece Einfach kompliziert (Simply Complicated) comes to mind.”
For the Museum Ludwig the Gesellschaft für Moderne Kunst acquirrd the work Preis, Kapitel 28, 2014 von Quaytman and MK/M 2015/05, 2015 von Krebber.
Kerry James Marshall 2014
2014 Kerry James Marshall received the Wolfgang Hahn Prize.
Elena Filipovic, art critic and senior curator at the WIELS Contemporary Art Centre, remarked the jury's decision: “A painter’s painter as much as he is an astute social critic, Kerry James Marshall has built an uncompromising body of work that includes collage, sculpture, animation, and video-making alongside a deep attachment to painting as a medium. In his hands, painting is both intimately connected to a historic painterly tradition and also fiercely tied to the present—its social injustices, race relations, power dynamics, and political realities. An exploration of blackness, and a call for the representation of the black subject—so long left out of art history—mark his oeuvre. The Wolfgang Hahn Prize is proud to recognize this African American artist whose oeuvre testifies to one of the most engaged positions in painting today."
Die Gesellschaft für Moderne Kunst erwarb das Werk Vignette #15 from 2014 for the Musuem Ludwig.
Andrea Fraser 2013
In 2013, Andrea Fraser received the Wolfgang Hahn Prize.
Guest juror Yilmaz Dziewior, Director of Kunsthaus Bregenz, substantiated the jury’s decision: “Andrea Fraser has made an essential contribution to important themes in contemporary art for more than 25 years. Fraser‘s extensive oeuvre – performances, videos and texts – provides accurate analyses as well as critical and partly humorous comments on the art scene. Her performances are researched, choreographed down to the finest gesture and presented by Andrea Fraser herself. The complexity and depth of her work, which has in recent years displayed a turn towards existential and social issues, is more than reason enough to award the Wolfgang Hahn Prize 2013 to Andrea Fraser.“
Gesellschaft für Moderne Kunst acquired a selection of the artist’s video works.
Henrik Olesen 2012
In 2012, the Wolfgang Hahn Prize went to Henrik Olesen.
Guest juror Chus Martinez, Director of the Agent Department and member of the core agent group of dOCUMENTA (13) explained the jury’s decision: “For Henrik Olesen, it is not an aim as such to produce a work whose content is evident. Instead, he develops his own syntax and mode of presentation by breaking apart the given structures of family and cultural affiliation. In awarding the prize to Henrik Olesen, the jury honours a form of visual culture which is associated in a new way with the Museum Ludwig collection by the creation and consumption of images and its themes of gender and cultural contextualisation.”
With the installation Mr. Knife and Mrs. Fork of 2009, Gesellschaft für Moderne Kunst acquired a comprehensive work complex for Museum Ludwig.
John Miller 2011
John Miller was awarded the Wolfgang Hahn Prize in 2011.
Ann Goldstein, Director of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and guest juror for the Wolfgang Hahn Prize 2011, substantiated the jury’s decision: “With empathy, humour and sympathetic observation, John Miller launches himself into the turbulence of everyday life, from which he distils truisms about what we call ‘normal’. He creates pictures of cultural practices that trigger critical and poetic at the same time. For more than thirty years, John Miller has created a remarkable oeuvre comprising painting, sculpture, photography and video. He is much admired among his fellow artists and highly respected as one of the most important artists of his generation. His works are collected comprehensively in Europe.”
Together with Museum Ludwig, Gesellschaft für Moderne Kunst acquired the two-part sculpture Self-Made Man, 2011, which John Miller created specifically for the Museum Ludwig, along with a group of photographs from the Middle of the Day series.
Peter Fischli and David Weiss 2010
In 2010, the Wolfgang Hahn Prize was awarded to Swiss artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss.
To commemorate the 25th anniversary of Gesellschaft für Moderne Kunst, we acquired a substantial group of works from the artists together with Museum Ludwig and the City of Cologne. The acquisition comprises a group of photographs from the series Airport which was created during the period 1988 to 2008 and depicts mundane scenes on unspecified airports. Furthermore the gypsum sculpture 4 Frauen (4 Women) of 1989 was purchased. Finally Fischli Weiss created a German-language radio installation for Museum Ludwig.
“Fischli Weiss belong to Switzerland’s most influential and perhaps ingenious artists. They are known not only for their captivating humour and “sharp eye” for the facts of life, but also for the influence they have had on whole generations of young artists,” analysed guest juror Heike Munder, Director of Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst in Zurich at the award ceremony.
Christopher Wool 2009
Christopher Wool was the recipient of the Wolfgang Hahn Prize 2009.
With the prize funds, Gesellschaft für Moderne Kunst at Museum Ludwig acquired two serigraphs on paper from Christopher Wool for the Museum Ludwig both dating from 2008. In association with the abstract painting Untitled, 2007, which already formed part of the Museum Ludwig collection, these unique serigraphs document how Wool works with different media.
The 2009 guest juror, Dr. Ulrich Loock, then Director of Museu Serralves in Porto, described the artist’s oeuvre as follows: “Wool also extends his practice of successively neutralising painterly carriers of meaning beyond the confines of the individual picture. The unique painting, produced by an unrepeatable painterly action under the pressure of the limited drying time of sprayed lacquer, is joined by a serigraphic reproduction of this unique work. Wool thereby explodes all theoretical constructs, which juxtapose concepts like singularity and reproducibility, painterly and photographic, authorship and non-auctorial production in a historical perspective on cultural production.”
Peter Doig 2008
Gesellschaft für Moderne Kunst awarded the Wolfgang Hahn Prize 2008 to Peter Doig.
The large-format work Man Dressed as Bat (Embah) of 2008 was acquired by Gesellschaft für Moderne Kunst with support from Museum Ludwig and the City of Cologne. The painting presents a blurred figure with two wings standing in front of a monochrome, turquoise-green background which appears as though covered by a milky veil. Doig‘s complex painting oscillates between figuration and abstraction, between reality and imagination. The artist himself has said that the work "is in a way a painting about carnival, but very subtle. Port of Spain – Cologne".
Iwona Blazwick, Director of Whitechapel Art Gallery and guest juror in 2008, explained the decision of the jury to select Doig among some 50 artists proposed: “Doig‘s magical realism launches painting into uncharted territories – this makes him one of the most important painters of his generation.”
Mike Kelley 2006
In 2006, the Wolfgang Hahn Prize was awarded to Mike Kelley.
Gesellschaft für Moderne Kunst acquired Kelley‘s work Primal Architecture dating from 1995. The installation had been part of the exhibition “Toward a Utopian Art Complex” in New York that year.
The guest juror of 2006, Donna de Salvo, Chief Curator and Deputy Director for Programs at Whitney Museum, New York, commented the acquired work as follows: “The acquisition of the work Primal Architecture is a great compliment to his oeuvre, since it features a structure through which Kelly has mapped the history of his own family. Each one of the paper maché forms represents a side of his family—his father’s in blue, his mother’s in pink. In talking with him a few days ago, he referred to these as ‘informal structures’, making a link with Bataille’s notion of the enforme. It is one of his most abstract and seemingly highly formal works.”
Richard Artschwager 2005
Richard Artschwager received the Wolfgang Hahn Prize 2005.
The work Janus III (Elevator), 1983/2005 was acquired. This installation subsumes Artschwager‘s art in special beauty - sculpturally, in terms of its psychology of perception, and in its deeper meanings.
“The combination and interlocking of aesthetic features and media is an essential feature of Richard Artschwager‘s art. Despite the apparent simplicity of its forms, it demands our full attention,” explained Charles Esche (Director of Van Abbe Museum Eindhoven) who was the 2005 laudator and guest juror.
Rosemarie Trockel 2004
The Wolfgang Hahn Prize 2004 was awarded to Rosemarie Trockel.
A monochrome knitted picture entitled Wasser (Water) was acquired. Although monochrome, its structure is not entirely homogenous due to its varied "knitting temperaments". The work is mounted on a canvas-covered frame and then enclosed again in a light-colour frame.
Guest juror Dr. Silvia Eiblmayr, then Director of the Gallery in Taxispalais Innsbruck, commented the work: “Produced with the very specific conception of a `painting-machine’, the knitted image will find its multiple references to the icons of Museum Ludwig, but also, with aesthetic wit, to the stone floor whose colour it will absorb. Here, as in her entire oeuvre, Rosemarie Trockel`s great art is her comprehensive critical epistemological and poetic knowledge of things and their gestalt. She is very close to them in a fascinating form, but then assumes distance again by displacements, inversions and refractions.”
Niele Toroni 2003
Niele Toroni was the winner of the Wolfgang Hahn Prize 2003.
The four-part work o.T. (red, green, blue and black tableau, 1993, acrylic on canvas, each 420 x 160 cm) was acquired for Museum Ludwig.
“There is the same brush, the same expression by colour and the same dimension of thirty centimetres – and no further invocation, no metaphysics, no conveyance of content, no logic to be learned,” said guest juror Dr. Thomas Kellein, then Director of Kunsthalle Bielefeld, about Toroni‘s painting. “The brush impression procedure lives by peaceful and at times tense, sometimes lascivious and then stage-like coexistence. The colour patches become increasingly less autonomous. They position themselves well or less well beside other art or alone in the centre of architecture. The artist shows astonishing tolerance for almost everything.”
Isa Genzken 2002
Isa Genzken received the Wolfgang Hahn Prize 2002.
The work Venedig, 1993 (Venice) (two sections, epoxy resin, steel, each 350 x 130 x 9 cm), was acquired for Museum Ludwig.
Guest juror Poul Erik Tøjner, Director Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, commented on the work of the artist as follows: “In confrontation with Isa Genzken’s seismographs, we become more intensely aware of exposure, and it is by this exposure that her work can be experienced as an answer to the question it itself poses. About her works in large spaces, in the public sphere, the artist says: the aim is to create something which this location, this specific place lacks. It is, of course, an interesting point that the work of art simultaneously compensates, as it were, for a lack by making it visible. In this sense, Isa Genzken gives her answer by asking the question.”
Raymond Pettibon 2001
In 2001, the Wolfgang Hahn Prize was awarded to Raymond Pettibon.
A group of drawings by the artist was acquired.
Guest juror Susanne Ghez, Chairwoman of the Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago, said: “Pettibon`s pictorial language is exactly about that: picture plus language. It is not the artistic execution, but the combination of image and text that constitutes the particular fascination of his drawings. They thrive on the inimitable aesthetic of this synthesis, which stresses the disjunctive, the fragmentary, the non-hierarchical, the all-inclusive, and makes ingenious use of the surprising moment, irony and wit, the banality of everyday life as much as the literary and philosophical.“
Hubert Kiecol 2000
Hubert Kiecol was awarded the Wolfgang Hahn Prize 2000.
His piece Wege, 1992 (Ways) (wood, colour, ca. 150 x 300 x 300 cm; 132 parts) was purchased for the Museum Ludwig Collection.
Guest juror Fabrice Hergott, then Director General of the Museums of Strasbourg, commented the choice of artist as follows: “Between materiality and dream, the work of Hubert Kiecol is a patient accentuation of our obsessions. It presents the structures of our relationship with the world like x-rays present the bones of living beings. Silent and peacefully, it reminds us that beauty is an indispensable substrate.”
Pipilotti Rist 1999
The Wolfgang Hahn Prize laureate in 1999 was Pipilotti Rist.
The video installation Eine Spitze in den Westen, ein Blick in den Osten, 1999 (A tip in the West, a look in the East) was acquired.
Guest juror Bice Curiger, then Curator at Kunsthaus Zurich, substantiated the jury’s decision, saying: “Video means: I see. And Pipilotti Rist directs her sight which detects fundamental things dynamically into the relevant realities. As in a dream she shows us what this really means in our period of television and permanent visual massage. If the visual and the visualising are the dominant forces of our epoch, Rist‘s anthropological perspective is a dissecting one that simultaneously arrives from outside, but also deeply inside, and is defined by the colours of sensuality and Pop.”
Franz West 1998
Franz West received the Wolfgang Hahn Prize 1998.
Gesellschaft für Moderne Kunst acquired the artist‘s installation Kantine (Canteen), consisting of 25 tables and 100 chairs. The installation was established in the cafeteria of Museum Ludwig for temporary use.
Guest juror Veit Görner, then Curator at Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, about the artist: “For me, West is above all a 'userproducer'. That concerns his production, his materials and in many of his works also the purposive intention. I understand his artistic procedures as a form of production action based on a principle of participation which includes the other – other people with other ideas, other conceptions, capabilities and feelings – both during the creation and in the engagement with these works of art.“
Cindy Sherman 1997
Cindy Sherman was the 1997 laureate of the Wolfgang Hahn Prize.
Three works Untitled (# 222), 1990, Untitled (# 152), 1985 and Untitled (# 255), 1992 (each a colour photograph) were acquired.
Guest juror Katharina Schmidt, then Director of the Public Art Collection at Basel Art Museum, said: “From the start, Cindy Sherman used her extraordinary transformative talents to create her compelling pictures serving as her own model and exclusively using photography (and occasionally film). By breaking open official role images by taboo forms of expression of the different emotional and mental states of her representatives, Cindy Sherman makes human misery, suffering and delusion evident where glamour and beautiful appearance negate it. The themes of her iridescent compositions are fairy-tales, phantasmagorias, scenes of monstrosity and horror. All of Cindy Sherman’s figures, the sound and the unsound, those presented by herself and her surrogates, evoke a story in which they appear threatened and vulnerable.”
Günther Förg 1996
Günther Förg was awarded the Wolfgang Hahn Prize 1996.
The work Ohne Titel, 1995 (Untitled) (acrylic on canvas, 400 x 600 cm), was acquired.
„Förg abducts viewers into the dark mythical world of antiquity, but leaves them under the illusion of walking through an exhibition hall with modern mainstream art. He appears to follow the rules of the avant-garde to then dive through them into an archaic unmediated picture concept,“ said guest juror Veit Loers, then Director of Museum Abteiberg in Mönchengladbach.
Lawrence Weiner 1995
Lawrence Weiner was honoured with the Wolfgang Hahn Prize 1995.
The works To Build a Square in the Rhineland, 1995 (sunk steel plate, 135 x 135 x 3,5 cm), and To Build a Square in the Rhineland, 1995 (drawing), were acquired from the artist.
Guest juror Rudi Fuchs, then Director of Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, said about the artist: “Lawrence Weiner has freed his art from the weight of aesthetics. It is not a static form, but a flashing, free speech-type form which becomes visible in every desired gestalt. Like a guerrilla, this art lives off the land and moves about secretly; its appearance always comes as a surprise.”
James Lee Byars 1994
The inaugural Wolfgang Hahn Prize was awarded to James Lee Byars in 1994.
The acquisition included the works The Thinking Field of 100 Spheres, 1989 consisting of 100 white marble spheres, each ca. 20 cm in diameter, and The Perfect Smile (Performance, 1994).
The laudator Joachim Sartorius, then Director of the Artist Programme of the German Academic Exchange Service, said: “If I were asked which sentence might sum up the work of James Lee Byars, I would say: It is a specific questioning search for the beautiful, blazing beauty that suddenly emerges. One might also say: the divine. Or one might say: perfection. In fact, Byar‘s works are often rooted in a sphere of experience situated before language.”