Atta Kwami wins The Maria Lassnig Prize
The 2021 Maria Lassnig Prize is awarded to UK-based Ghanaian artist Atta Kwami.
Atta Kwami (b. Accra, 1956) is a painter, printmaker, art historian and independent curator based in Loughborough, UK. Kwami is known for paintings, murals and kiosk-sculptures that are conceived as expanded three-dimensional paintings, incorporating his signature use of colour and abstract painting style. His works play with the colour and form improvisations that are distinctive of Ghanaian architecture and African strip-woven textiles, especially kente, made famous by his culture the Ewe and Asante of Ghana.
The Maria Lassnig Prize is awarded biennially to a mid-career artist in association with an international institutional partner. Atta Kwami is the third artist to be honoured by the Prize, he follows Cathy Wilkes, in partnership with MoMA PS1 (2017), and Sheela Gowda, in partnership with Lenbachhaus, Munich (2019).
The Maria Lassnig Prize was originally envisioned by pioneering Austrian artist Maria Lassnig before her death in 2014 at the age of 94, at height of her artistic career. Having achieved recognition only later in life, she hoped to encourage the efforts of artists not yet familiar to the public.
Atta Kwami, Loughborough, Autumn 2020: ‘I am proud to be associated with Maria Lassnig’s legacy. Her late recognition requires us to look again at so many artists whose life work has been overlooked or undervalued. Her formidable and wide-ranging body of work shows that she was an individual who pushed herself to her limits, without the critical recognition to guide her on. The Maria Lassnig Prize 2021 is completely unexpected. I am very happy it has come at this stage of my life. I shall always be humbly grateful for all the people who have supported me; my mother, my wife, my galleries and my friends both inside and outside Ghana. I am glad for myself and for Ghana.’
Atta Kwami will receive a major grant of 50,000 euros and a project with Serpentine Galleries, the institutional partner for the 2021 Maria Lassnig Prize. The Serpentine Galleries presented a solo exhibition of Lassnig’s work in 2008. Kwami was selected by a jury comprising the Serpentine Galleries, the Maria Lassnig Foundation, the former partnering institution Lenbachhaus and the artist Albert Oehlen.
Atta Kwami’s project with Serpentine – a comprehensive monograph publication and a public art commission – will be launched in 2022. But in the meantime, the year 2021 is likely to be a year full of news for the artist as he is also part of the forthcoming Folkestone Triennial and is designing a triptych of large stained-glass windows for the new Ghana National Cathedral in Accra designed by Sir David Adjaye OBE.