Art of Another Kind: Guggenheim International Award

2:05 | Published on June 8, 2012 | 85 Views

Curator of Collections and Exhibitions Tracey Bashkoff explains the early history of the Guggenheim International Award, the largest monetary award given in the arts at the time, initiated under James Johnson Sweeney’s directorship in 1956. The contenders for the prize were artists from around the world, a reflection of the art world’s expansion and the broader spirit of internationalism in the 1950s, as well as the United States’ self-assertion as a force in the realm of international politics. The award program also broadened the Guggenheim’s collection as works by artists such as Giuseppe Capogrossi, Maria Helena Vieira da Silva, and Takeo Yamaguchi entered the museum’s holdings.

For more information, visit Art of Another Kind: International Abstraction and the Guggenheim, 1940–1960.

Download the Transcript (PDF)

Tracey Bashkoff, Curator, Collections and Exhibitions: There were three international award exhibitions under [Guggenheim director James Johnson] Sweeney’s tenure: 1956, 1958, and 1960.

The Guggenheim held and presented the first Guggenheim International Award. It at the time was really the highest monetary award that was given in the arts, and the first award went to the British artist Ben Nicholson. The award was presented by Dwight Eisenhower, really attesting to the politics of the time, and the fostering of internationalism in the art world was really tied up in the United States asserting themselves as a force in international politics.

Another remarkable aspect of this international award was that the short list of artists represented many countries around the world. It was a way of really building up the relationships between the New York art scene and the international art world.

The Guggenheim acquired work from these international award exhibitions and so works like the Giuseppe Capogrossi, the Maria [Helena] Vieira da Silva, and the Takeo Yamaguchi entered the Guggenheim’s collection as a result of these awards.