Art

JAA’s Praemium Imperiale recognizes the world’s best

by Tai Kawabata

The 14th Praemium Imperiale prizes will this year go to movie director Jean-Luc Godard, baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, architect Sir Norman Foster, painter Sigmar Polke and sculptor Giuliano Vangi, it was announced Tuesday.

The awards, made by the Japan Art Association in recognition of international achievement in the fields of painting, sculpture, theater/film, music and architecture, will be presented by Prince Hitachi, the association’s honorary patron, at a ceremony in Tokyo on Oct. 23. Each recipient will also receive 15 million yen (around $125,000), a certificate and a medal.

The association also announced Tuesday that it will grant 5 million yen to the European Union Youth Orchestra, which was founded in 1978. Its current conductor is Vladimir Ashkenazy.

Godard, a key figure in the French nouvelle vague (new wave) movement of the 1960s, is recognized as one of the most influential contemporary filmmakers, whose 1959 work “A bout de souffle (Breathless)” broke quite new ground. His most recent film is “Eloge de l’amour (In Praise of Love)” (2001).

Best known for his performances of traditional German lieder, Fischer-Dieskau is also renowned for his versatility, singing roles in the operas of Verdi and Puccini as readily as those by Mozart, Strauss or Wagner. He has also performed in many contemporary operas.

Foster’s architecture is admired for its sophisticated combination of technology, ingenious geometry, attention to detail and sensitivity to ecological considerations. His recent commissions, including the Sackler Galleries and the Great Court of the British Museum, London, and the new German Parliament at the Reichstag in Berlin, combine modernity with a great respect for the past.

Polke, born in Poland in 1941 and raised in West Germany from 1953, first attracted wide attention in 1963 with an exhibition (held jointly with Gerhard Ricther) titled “Capital Realism” that presented merchandise as art. His career has been characterized by changes of style and technique that have earned him the nickname “the alchemist of art.”

Despite his use of media such as old prints, news photos and comic characters, critics have viewed Polke’s work as set apart, both politically and emotionally, from the mainstream of American and British Pop Art, and also from the work of German contemporaries.

Vangi, from Italy, began his career concentrating on abstract studies, but since 1962 has taken the human figure as his subject. His recent works are mostly of a religious nature. He created a pulpit and altar for Pisa Cathedral, located next to the leaning tower. He is currently collaborating with architect Renzo Piano, a 1995 Praemium Imperiale laureate, on a new work for the Church of St. Padre Pio in San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy.