Michael Rakowitz is the fifth artist to receive the Nasher Prize,
an international award recognizing artists who have advanced, challenged, and contributed to the field of sculpture.
Along with being named the 2020 Laureate, the Chicago-based artist will receive $100,000.
For over twenty years Rakowitz’s socially engaged works and acute sensitivity to material have addressed issues of cultural identity, inherited patrimony, and collective trauma.
As an American descendent of the Iraqi Jewish diaspora whose family fled Iraq under the threat of violence, his projects
and research focus on the emotional and psychological impact of such generational displacement.
Rakowitz’s earliest ongoing work paraSITE, which had its first iteration in 1997, is temporary inflatable shelters produced for and in collaboration with homeless individuals.
Utilizing materials that cost no more than five dollars, these shelters are attached to a building’s exterior venting system, providing heat to the structure while calling attention to issues surrounding homeless populations.
Both Enemy Kitchen (2003) and Radio Silence (2017) continue using familial heritage and participatory engagement as powerful tools for unity across cultural divides due to ongoing war.
These projects tap into the intimate nature of how we maintain history in our daily life,
and how the act of sharing can bring people together, providing a space for healing.
His largest project, The invisible enemy should not exist (2007), continues to “reappear” antiquities from the National Museum of Iraq,
Baghdad that were looted or destroyed following the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. Springing forth from his 2006 storefront project, RETURN,
The invisible enemy should not exist seeks to preserve displaced histories while mourning the loss of cultural artifacts and, most importantly, lives lost.
M Arthur Peña (AP): What do you foresee as a lasting impact of Nasher Prize on your practice? Michael Rakowitz (MR):
I’ve been lucky to work alongside the young artists that I do here in Chicago at the studio.
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