Francis Alÿs has won the 2020 Rolf Schock Prize in Visual Arts in recognition of a body of work “that is as profound as it is extensive. Francis Alÿs’s congenial, metaphorising idiom affords deepened insights into chaotic conflicts while at the same time drawing attention to shortcomings in our daily representation of events,” reads a statement from the Royal Swedish Academy of Arts, which administers the prize; “With seriousness and acuity, Francs Alÿs addresses real, tragic situations and circumstances which in his poetic renditions become universal and find their way into our hearts. His extensive projects, such as moving mountains and building bridges between continents, always denote the individual human step or measure. In this way Francis Alÿs makes a space for us as participants rather than viewers when we are confronted by his works.”
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Awarded every three years in four categories—Logic & Philosophy, Mathematics, Visual Arts, and Musical Arts—the Rolf Shock Prizes were established and endowed by a bequest of the philosopher and artist Rolf Schock (1933–1986), and are decided by the three Swedish academies in those disciplines. Fellow gallery artist Marlene Dumas was awarded the Visual Arts prize in 2011.
Born in 1959 in Antwerp, Belgium, Alÿs originally trained as an architect. He moved to Mexico City in 1986, where he continues to live and work, and it was the confrontation with issues of urbanization and social unrest in his new country of adoption that inspired his decision to become a visual artist. In his work, Alÿs consistently directs his distinct poetic and imaginative sensibility toward anthropological and geopolitical concerns centered around observations of, and engagements with, everyday life, which the artist himself has described as “a sort of discursive argument composed of episodes, metaphors, or parables.”
Image: Francis Alÿs, during the Peshmerga embed, Mosul, 2016
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