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On April 2, the Nasher Sculpture Center hosted its first Nasher Prize Laureate gala since 2019. This year’s recipient of the 2022 Nasher Prize Laureate was Nairy Baghramian, honored for the influence her work has had in evolving the understanding of the medium, and as she has said, “the sculpture should have the chance not to fulfill expectations.” Baghramian, an Iranian-born, Berlin-based artist, is distinguished for how she creates works that contradict their settings and the architectural, sociological, political, and historical conditions that inform them. Throughout her three decade career, she has explored modeling, molding, and casting, which are each interrelated elements of sculpture production that engage the positive and negative forms. In an attempt to humanize this mechanical process, many of Baghramian’s works may be viewed as abstract forms of soft and malleable bodies or body parts as she contemplates the relationship between the physical body, including gender, and its surrounding environment.
To provide insight into Baghramian's artistic relationship with space and material, the Gala premiered an original documentary on her practice, filmed in Berlin this winter. The short film delves into how she often experiments with a range of materials, including mixtures of silicon, resins, polyurethane, yet sometimes marble and woods as well. What the film paramountly emphasizes is Baghramian’s intentions to invoke elbows or knees or other parts of the human body to address those familiar relationships with the organic world to further this dialogue.
After the screening, Nancy A. Nasher, daughter of museum founders Ray and Patsy Nasher, presented Baghramian with the Renzo Piano-designed award saying, “She asks us to have an encounter with her art, and that art makes us better observers of the world, our bodies, and our own behavior. We are grateful for the ways this artist reminds us of the quiet power of sculpture.”
Special guests who attended the evening’s gala included Prize jurors Yuko Hasegawa and Pablo Leon de la Barra; artists Sita and Piero Golia; collectors Marguerite Hoffman, Patrick Collins, and Cindy and Howard Rachofsky; art advisor Loring Randolph; and art historian Miwon Kwon. The setting, assembled by Stage Works, included florals by Grange Hall, a contemporary musical composition by Tim Feeney, and sound sculptures by mid-century artist Harry Bertoia.
Earlier in the weekend, the Nasher hosted two events as part of the “Nasher Prize Dialogues,” a series of public programs with the purpose of furthering the climate of contemporary sculpture. On Friday, Baghramian spoke about what inspires her artistic practice in a conversation with Nasher Curator Dr. Catherine Craft.
Now, as the sixth recipient of the Nasher Prize, an international award for sculpture, Baghramian joins the past laureates like Michael Rakowitz, Theaster Gates, Isa Genzken, Pierre Huyghe, and Doris Salcedo.
Jeremy Strick, Director of Nasher Sculpture Center, said, “Art has the perennial ability to help us process the experience of the world around us, however fraught. In this way, the Nasher Prize’s mission to champion the creative and intellectual contributions of our greatest living artists is more important than ever, and we are so happy to honor a laureate in Nairy Baghramian whose work looks with inquisitiveness, criticality, humor, and deep sympathy at how we humans interact, engage space, and endure.”