Announcement of Honourees 2019 Praemium Imperiale for Anne-Sophie Mutter

17 Sept 2019 – The Praemium Imperiale award in the music category goes to Anne-Sophie Mutter in 2019. This is already the second renowned honour this year for the violinist, who received the Polar Music Prize in June from the hands of Carl XVI Gustav, King of Sweden. The Praemium Imperiale is currently associated with a premium of 15 million Yen (approximately 128,500 Euros today). The award ceremony takes place in Tokyo on October 16, 2019.

The 2019 Praemium Imperiale in the painting category goes to the South African William Kentridge. In the categories sculpture and architecture, the recipients are British-Palestinian artist Mona Hatoum and the architectural team of Tod Williams and Billie Tsien from the USA. The Japanese Kabuki actor Bando Tamasaburo was selected for the theatre/film category. Apart from the honourees in these five genres, the encouragement award for young artists goes to the French music education programme Démos in 2019. Klaus-Dieter Lehmann, President of the Goethe Institute and international consultant to the Japan Art Association, announced this year’s honourees at the Museum of Musical Instruments in Berlin today. 

Since 1989, the Praemium Imperiale Awards have been given annually in the categories of Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, Music and Theatre/Film to cover fields of achievement not represented by the Nobel Prizes. The Laureates are chosen from a list submitted by six International Advisors to the Japan Art Association.

While maintaining the Awards' original mandate to select candidates who have made a major international impact in their particular field, the International Advisors for the Awards and their committees have been looking beyond their national boundaries for ground-breaking artists to recommend to the Japan Art Association.

Recipient Biographies
Sculpture: Mona Hatoum
Born February 11, 1952 / Beirut, Lebanon
Mona Hatoum is a British Palestinian artist whose poetic and political oeuvre is realized in a diverse and often unconventional range of media, including installation, sculpture, video, photography and works on paper.  She was born into a Palestinian family who, exiled from their homeland, had settled in Beirut, Lebanon. When on a short trip to London in 1975, the outbreak of the Lebanese Civil War prevented Hatoum from returning to Beirut. Based in London she pursued a long-held dream to become an artist studying Fine Art from 1975 to 1981 at Byam Shaw School of Art and Slade School of Fine Art. Initially through performance and video and later through installations and large-scale artworks, she alludes to the experience of displaced people, social contradictions, and political repression. Hatoum has developed a language in which familiar, domestic everyday objects are often transformed into foreign, threatening and dangerous things, as well as using cartography to explore instability and precariousness in today’s political landscape. Constantly in demand, Hatoum’s works feature in major contemporary art collections and exhibitions. A large survey exhibition was held at Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2015; Tate Modern, London, 2016 and Kiasma, Helsinki, 2016-2017. She received the 10th Hiroshima Art Prize in 2017. 

Music: Anne-Sophie Mutter
Born June 29, 1963 / Rheinfelden, Germany
German born musician, Anne-Sophie Mutter, is considered to be one of the world’s greatest contemporary violinists.  From an early age it was clear that she was precociously talented and, when only 13, she was invited by the legendary conductor, Herbert von Karajan to play with the Berlin Philharmonic –an orchestra with which she continues to collaborate with to this day. She has worked with many of the world’s greatest conductors – Seiji Ozawa, Zubin Mehta and Daniel Barenboim, among many others.  Her musical skills and subtle, unique vibrato technique are beyond question. She commands a large and varied repertoire that often features works written for her by major contemporary composers such as Krzysztof Penderecki and Sofia Gubaidulina. So far, she has premiered 28 works. Through the Friends of the Anne-Sophie Mutter Foundation, a project started in 1997, to which the Anne-Sophie Mutter Foundation was added in 2008, she helps talented young musicians familiarize themselves with the life of a professional musician, resulting in the first tour of her ensemble of the Mutter’s Virtuosi in 2011. In her strong charity engagement, she gives regular benefit concerts, helping the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake and the children in Yemen to name but a few. Further to receiving 4 Grammys and the 2008 Ernst vin Siemens Music Prize, she is the recipient of many more distinctions; in 2017, receiving the Commandeur de L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and in 2019, the Polar Music Prize.

Painting: William Kentridge
Born April 28, 1955 / Johannesburg, South Africa
William Kentridge is an extraordinary visual artist who uses drawing, film, performance, music and sculpture to probe the ideas and conventions of our world; seeking its hidden truths and dismantling its false certainties. His art has its roots in the social injustice of apartheid South Africa, where his family were leading lawyers and activists. He studied painting, acting and filmmaking, before deciding that ‘monochromatic drawing’ was his starting point. By the 1990s, his unique style of animated films won him recognition and the influence of German Expressionism and Dada echo through his work from films like Felix in Exile, to his immersive pieces like Refusal of Time. Themes of change, memory and time recur. Procession and silhouettes also play a key role. His studio is where his own vision takes flight - either on his own or in collaboration with others. It’s also where the music adds a vital element to the piece. He has also directed operas, including Alban Berg’s Wozzeck, which led to a wider exploration of the First World War in Africa, with its focus on the paradox of colonialism. Inventive and humorous, this Johannesburg-based artist is in demand all over the world. His diverse output resonates widely, and after 40 years, his search for a truer world still drives him.   

Theatre/Film: Bando Tamasaburo
Born April 25, 1950 / Tokyo, Japan
In the traditional world of Japanese kabuki theatre, Bando Tamasaburo is already legendary - considered to be one of its most important leading onnagata actors. As with many other countries’ theatrical traditions, kabuki is performed by an all-male ensemble, with some actors specializing in playing the female roles; the onnagata. Bando is known and greatly admired for his overwhelming beauty and his ability to express the spirit of the role he is playing. In keeping with kabuki tradition, he made his stage debut using one name, Bando Kinoji (in 1957), becoming Bando Tamasaburo V in 1964 after receiving the prestigious name from his adopted father, Morita Kan’ya XIV. At the age of 19, Bando won the role of Princess Shiranui in Yukio Mishima’s Chinsetsu Yumiharizuki. He has continued to play the most important female roles in kabuki such as the loyal nursemaid Masaoka in Meiboku Sendai Hagi (The Precious Incense and Autumn Flowers of Sendai) and the lovely courtesan Akoya in Dan no Ura Kabuto Gunki. Revealing a constantly inquiring creative mind, he has extended his scope to include international and non-kabuki pieces; performing in Okinawa’s Kumiodori, Chinese Kunqu opera, collaborating with cellist Yo-Yo Ma, dancer/choreographer Maurice Béjart and film director Andrzej Wajda.

Architecture: Tod Williams & Billie Tsien
Williams: Born May 11, 1943 / Detroit, Michigan, USA
Tsien: Born August 1, 1949 / Ithaca, New York, USA
New York based architects, Tod Williams and Billie Tsien have been working together since 1977, establishing their renowned practice, Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects in 1986. Their core belief is that architecture is an act of “profound optimism” and a service that can reflect the values of public institutions that share this view. The couple and their studio design buildings that blend seamlessly into their surroundings, have strong evidence of the hands from which they’re made, and prioritize the experience of the lives lived within them. The resulting spaces imbue warmth, familiarity, and serenity. Over their thirty-year career, they are responsible for numerous projects both domestically and overseas, including countries such as Hong Kong and India. They quickly gained attention for their design for the Neurosciences Institute (1995) in California, referred to as a “monastery for scientists”. The Barnes Foundation (2012) in Philadelphia, skilfully reproduces the majestic atmosphere of its former location while offering new elements for the public to engage with its inimitable art collection. In 2016 they were selected by former President Barack Obama to design The Obama Presidential Center in Chicago, scheduled for completion in 2022. Throughout their body of work, no matter the complexity, they retain the values of their practice and endeavor to leave good marks upon the earth. 

Selected by International Advisor, Jean-Pierre Raffarin (France)
Démos (Philharmonie de Paris) France
Démos is a musical education program run by the Philharmonie de Paris. Since its establishment in 2010, it has provided musical education to children between 7 to 12 in underserved localities or rural areas; areas where classical music is not traditionally promoted. They not only lend children musical instruments but also provide lessons for up to four hours a week for 3 years – all without charge. Two professional musicians and a social worker work together to teach groups of 15 children. Once a month 7 groups get together to form a symphonic orchestra of 105 children and annually these orchestras perform concerts at local concert halls and other music venues. There are 38 orchestras formed in this way all over France, encompassing nearly 4000 children. Démos plans to increase the number of orchestras to 60 by 2022. Their annual operating cost is about 8 million euros – one third of the budget is provided by the French Government, another third from the private sector, and the final third by local governments. About half of the children who take part in this musical education program continue to study classical music after graduation and are allowed to keep their instrument.

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2019 Praemium Imperiale Laureates announcement in Berlin

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