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Portrait of Dominique White, Winner, Max Mara Art Prize for Women 9, 2022-2024.

Max Mara Art Prize for Women Awarded to Dominique White

This week in London, Whitechapel Gallery and Collezione Maramotti raised a toast to artist Dominique White as the winner of the Max Mara Art Prize for Women. The ceremony was hosted by Director of Whitechapel, Gilane Tawadros, and CEO of Max Mara Fashion Group Srl., Luigi Maramotti. Now in its ninth edition, artist Claudette Johnson, gallerist Rozsa Farkas, collector Maria Sukkar, and writer Derica Shields served as panelists, with chair and guest curator Bina von Stauffenberg. The prodigious award champions female artists at pivotal moments in their careers, and will grant White a six-month residency in Italy to further explore her proposal, “Deadweight,” which will manifest as a solo show next year at Whitechapel and tour to Maramotti, Reggio Emilia, Italy. Artists Zinzi Minott, Rebecca Bellantoni, Onyeka Igwe, Bhajan Hunjan were shortlisted alongside White. 

Max Mara Art Prize 2023 Photo by Dan Weill, courtesy of Whitechapel Gallery.
Max Mara Art Prize 2023 Photo by Dan Weill, courtesy of Whitechapel Gallery.

“The youngest of the shortlist, Dominique’s winning proposal showed a maturity, rigor, and consistency of creative approach that is entirely in keeping with the aims of the Prize, which is ultimately to enable women-identifying artists to develop and create projects that speak of and to the world around them,” said Tawadros. Based in Marseille and Essex, White is both a sculptor and installation artist, igniting vibrant new space for Blackness in relation to the enriching poetry of the sea. 

In spellbinding abstract works of art and potent political expression, White juxtaposes abandoned nautical remains—rope, chains, sails, masts, and charred mahogany—with untreated iron and Kaolin clay. A spirited examination of Afro-pessimism and Black subjectivity transpires, as the artist meticulously unravels nautical myths of the Black Diaspora. Past works such as Flag of Nowhere (2017), A refusal to be contained, a refusal to die (2021), Redemption (2022), and May they never catch you (2022) reframe the word “Shipwrecked”—imagining a boundless Black future. 

Dominique White, Dominique White, “Flag of Nowhere,” 2017, kaolin, calico, rotting dried palm leaves, raffia, buoys, cowrie shells; courtesy of the artist.
Dominique White, Dominique White, “May they never catch you,” 2022, cast iron; photo by Deniz Guzel, courtesy of the artist, Bold Tendencies, and VEDA Firenze.

During her residency in Italy, White will immerse herself in field study as well as in the studio, performing necessary research for “Deadweight.” The project derives its name from the maritime term, which calculates the units of weight a ship is able to support before it sinks. White connects this concept of “deadweight tonnage” to the documented slave trade in the Mediterranean and its repercussions in modern society. A comprehensive investigation of archives and museums, historic shipyards and collections, and close collaboration with historians and skilled metal workers will culminate in portions of the built work to be immersed into the Tyrrhenian Sea. 

Tawadros added, “At a time when the need for refuge and safe space is so acute, and the passage of individuals and communities by sea poses such risks to lives and exposes so much injustice, the interrogation and exploration of both the historical and contemporary systems that control movement and identity seems especially urgent.”

Max Mara Art Prize 2023 Photo by Dan Weill, courtesy of Whitechapel Gallery.
Dominique White, Dominique White, “Untitled 2 (preliminary sketch),” 2020, A4 black paper, white pencil; courtesy of the artist and VEDA Firenze.
Dominique White, Dominique White, “Redemption,” 2022, burnt mahogany, cast iron, forged iron, damaged rope; photo by Aurélien Mole, courtesy of the artist, Triangle – Astérides, and VEDA Firenze.

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