Elmgreen & Dragset - 14th Robert Jacobsen Prize of the Würth Foundation

October 5, 2021 – February 6, 2022
Presentation in the Belvedere and the Sculpture Garden

Art projects that raise questions as to identity and belonging, to social, cultural and political structures, yet which nonetheless enter the sphere of popular cultural reference – these are the trademark of the Scandinavian artists Elmgreen & Dragset (Michael Elmgreen, b. 1961 in Copenhagen; Ingar Dragset, b. 1969 in Trondheim, Norway).

Prada Marfa, a full-scale model of a Prada boutique installed in the midst of a Texan desert in 2005, perfectly exemplifies the duo's interpretative horizon. Their leitmotifs are observations and commentaries on marginalization and membership, rich and poor, seeing and being seen, and the nature of consumer culture, privatization and gentrification of the public space.

Despite many references to subjects from art history, their sculptures frequently employ the formal language of minimalism. Yet by including objects from everyday life, they take on a relevance that lends them a narrative aspect. When the artists absurdly insert a cash machine in an original section of the Berlin Wall and then call this "penetration" Statue of Liberty, they not only counter the accepted narrative of a liberation from (all) evil but comment on the "selling out of history and city." And when in their Adaptation series they deprive traffic signs of their normal authoritarian injunctions and replace them with reflecting surfaces, they encourage viewers to "reflect" on and trust their own perception. In contrast, in their balcony sculpture The Observer, which skilfully occupies the threshold between private and public, we see an Everyman in leisure wear looking down at daily life from his balcony. In this way an average fellow becomes an observer and the balcony, once a bourgeois stage, a symbol of lonely anonymity in a restricted living space that has since become one of the striking themes of Elmgreen & Dragset's art.

To honor their entire oeuvre, marked less by a "defined touch" than by "a humanistic stance" with "great societal relevance," the Würth Foundation awards them the Robert Jacobsen Prize 2021, which carries a stipend of 50,000 euros. This prize, established in memory of the Danish sculptor Robert Jacobsen (1912–1993), has been awarded biennially since 1993.

On the occasion of the award, Museum Würth 2, in cooperation with the artists, is presenting a review of the work of the world-renowned duo, in the Belvedere and the sculpture garden at Carmen Würth Forum. A publication from Swiridoff Verlag, Künzelsau devoted to the 14th winners of the Robert Jacobsen Prize is available.

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