18.02.2017. - 09.04.2017.
Latvian National Museum of Art

Purvītis Prize 2017

The exhibition of the works nominated for the Purvītis Prize 2017 will be open to the public in the Great Exhibition Hall at the main building of the Latvian National Museum of Art from 18 February to 9 April 2017.

With the highest score from the jury, the fifth Purvītis Prize has been awarded to a group of artists – Krišs Salmanis, Anna Salmane and Kristaps Pētersons – for their exhibition Dziesma (Song) shown at the Creative Studio of the ARSENĀLS Exhibition Hall of the Latvian National Museum of Art in summer 2015.

On 17 February, at an official ceremony, the winners of the Purvītis Prize 2017 were announced on behalf of the jury by Māra Lāce, Director of the Latvian National Museum of Art (LNMA), and Jānis Zuzāns, Chairman of the Board at SIA Alfor, which is a patron of the museum. Along with the prize title, the artists also received a cash prize of 28 500 EUR (before taxes).

The winners of the fifth Purvītis Prize were selected by an international jury of seven members. The jury made its final decision in a closed sitting following an extensive 4-hour discussion, having assessed the eight shortlisted entries – exhibition works by Arturs Bērziņš, Ivars Drulle, Kristaps Epners, Atis Jākobsons, Voldemārs Johansons, Maija Kurševa, Anda Lāce and the artist group consisting of Krišs Salmanis, Anna Salmane and Kristaps Pētersons.

“The jury arrived at a decision after very serious discussions, having voted in two rounds, and the winner or in this case – the winners – were decided by a convincing majority vote. The work by Krišs Salmanis, Anna Salmane and Kristaps Pētersons to a certain extent challenges the “system of national values” as established during the 20th century and pushes the viewer to evaluate the relevance of this system in the 21st century. The artists studied the lyrics of songs from the closing concerts of the Latvian National Song and Dance Festival from 1990 to 2013, drawing up a statistical analysis, and they concluded that the word mentioned most often is saule (sun), followed by meita (maiden) and Dievs (God). Having creatively processed these conclusions, the artists have enacted a sophisticated deconstruction of the material creating, in our opinion, an artistically, ideologically and technically important work of art, and that was the reason for our decision,” explains the President of the jury, Director of LNMA Māra Lāce.

“For the purposes of the exhibition only the word God was selected, and Kristaps Pētersons created a collage Dievzemīte I (God’s Dear Land I) consisting of 184 song excerpts. The exhibition was soudtracked with a compilation of recordings from the Song and Dance Festivals. Although audibly it does not form a musical composition, it results in a cacophony, where the short fragments of song still invoke the exalted emotions of the Song Festival. The compilation creates a surreal effect – as if we were lost in space or listening to a broken record,” says Dr. art. Elita Ansone, Head of the expert working group. An Associate Professor at the Art Academy of Latvia Jānis Taurens, representative of the expert working group, goes on to add: “It is a wonderful example of intermedia work that may just as well be nominated for a music prize.”

The jury of the Purvītis Prize 2017 consisted of Māra Lāce, Director of the Latvian National Museum of Art, Jānis Zuzāns, Chairman of the Board at SIA Alfor – the main sponsor of LNMA, Thaddaeus Ropac, gallerist, owner of the Galerie Thaddaeuss Ropac in Paris, Salzburg and London (Austria), Juliet Bingham, Curator at Tate Modern (UK), Hedwig Fijen, Founder and Director of international foundation Manifesta (Netherlands), Rebecca Russo, art collector (Italy), Mark Allen Svede, art historian and professor at Ohio University (USA).

Upholding the established tradition, the organisers of the Purvītis Prize urge all visitors of the exhibition to express their opinion on the works by the eight finalists of the Purvītis Prize 2017 by filling out a form and casting their vote at the exhibition hall. At the end of the exhibition, the winners of the popular vote will be announced, and two voters will win a year-long free admission pass to exhibitions organised by the LNMA.

In order to ensure continuous assessment of the creative work within visual arts in Latvia, the expert working group of the sixth Purvītis Prize has already commenced their work, which will continue throughout 2017 and 2018, and regularly propose nominees for the prize. The expert working group consists of Astrīda Rogule, art historian and Curator of the Contemporary Art Collection at the LNMA, Inese Baranovska, art historian, curator and Head of the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design / LNMA, Vilnis Vējš, art critic, Kaspars Vanags, Head of Arts Programmes at ABLV Charitable Foundation, Sniedze Kāle, art historian, curator and Manager of Mūkusala Art Salon, art historian Inese Riņķe and Zane Onckule, art historian, Programme Director at Contemporary Art Centre kim?.

Founded in the early 2008, the Purvītis Prize was launched to amass regular and systematic information about the latest visual arts events in Latvia, promote development of new projects and original ideas, acknowledge the best achievements in Latvian professional visual arts and popularise the success of Latvian artists both in Latvia and abroad.

The award is named after the Old Master of Latvian painting Vilhelms Purvītis (1872–1945). He was an outstanding artist and art professor who won critical acclaim both at home and internationally. The co-founder of the national school of art and the pioneer of the national landscape painting, Vilhelms Purvītis is one of the all-time most influential figures in Latvian cultural and art life. He was the Head of the Riga Art School, the Director of the Riga Museum of Art and the founder of the collection of Latvian art, the founder and the first Rector of the Art Academy of Latvia and for many years, the Head of the landscape masterclass at the Academy, the Commissioner General of all the representative Latvian art exhibitions abroad during the interwar period.

The authority, educational work and artistic style of this prominent landscapist and Fellow of the St. Petersburg Academy of Art has left an impact on several generations of Latvian artists. A wise and farsighted culture politician, Vilhelms Purvītis was an active supporter of the young artists of the time and discovered a number of talented painters who later played important roles on the Latvian art scene. The name of Vilhelms Purvītis has become a sign of national identity, both in the history of Latvian art and in the eyes of the general public. Therefore the Prize is a kind of synthesis of established, classical values and the seemingly momentary, contemporary art processes.

The Purvītis Prize is awarded biannually to an artist or a group of artists representing Latvia with outstanding work, which is deemed to be deeply connected to the developments of the era and forming a bridge between contemporary life, spiritual ideals and intrinsic values. The artist rated highest by a panel of experts and an international jury is selected as the winner.

The Prize of 28 500 EUR pre-tax is the most prestigious and the most substantial art award in Latvia.

The first Purvītis Prize was awarded in 2009 to Katrīna Neiburga for her video work Solitude. The second winner of the Purvītis Prize in 2011 became artist Kristaps Ģelzis for his solo exhibition Varbūt (Maybe). The third Purvītis Prize in 2013 has won Andris Eglītis for his one-man show Zemes darbi (Ground Works). The fourth winner of the Purvītis Prize in 2015 was Miķelis Fišers for his personal exhibition Netaisnība (Injustice). The Purvītis Prize 2017 has been awarded to a group of artists – Krišs Salmanis, Anna Salmane and Kristaps Pētersons – for their exhibition Dziesma (Song).

The Purvītis Prize competition in visual arts is organised by the Latvian National Museum of Art in collaboration with the Museum Patron, SIA Alfor, association Art Platform (Mākslas platforma), SIA Culture Project Agency ‘INDIE’ (Kultūras projektu aģentūra “INDIE”) and P.R.A.E. Public Relations (P.R.A.E. Sabiedriskās attiecības).

Project is supported by SIA Alfor.

Daiga Rudzāte, art historian, critic