American feminist neo-conceptual artist Jenny Holzer was initially drawn to the military history of England’s Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, and originally built to applaud the achievements of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, for his 1704 defeat of the French army of Louis XIV. Tapping that legacy, Holzer employed technology, stonework, light projections, a virtual reality mobile app developed by Holition, and her critically acclaimed LED light installations, to depict the cruelty of life during wartime, portraying the struggles of soldiers and civilians.
“Softer: Jenny Holzer At Blenheim Palace,” which was on display from Sept. 28, 2017, through Dec. 31, 2017, won Best Public or Outdoor Installation or Exhibition at last night’s 2018 Global Fine Art Awards (GFAA) black-tie gala at the Harold Pratt Mansion in New York. Global art leaders came out to celebrate and recognize the best curated fine art and design exhibitions in museums, galleries, fairs, biennials, and public installations throughout the world.
“We needed nature and then we needed this extraordinary architecture,” Holzer said in a video created by the Blenheim Palace Foundation.
The text for “Softer” was gathered by The Not Forgotten Association, a British Armed Forces registered charity that provides entertainment, recreation, and community to restore joy for serving and ex-service men and women. More that 50 veterans from the NFA contributed to the exhibition.
“It’s great honor to represent the foundation,” said Michael Frahm, artistic director of Blenheim Palace Art Foundation, accepting the award on behalf of Holzer, who was unable to attend because she’s installing another major show. “It’s a challenge to show how contemporary art can be shown in an 800 year old palace. We used everything from virtual realty to human bones.”
The GFAA international Art Research Committee evaluates prospective nominees, selecting from more than 200 museums and 2,000 exhibitions during yearlong research and exhibition visits. The fifth annual program honored 13 winners among 94 nominees representing six continents, 49 cities, and 31 countries.
Judy Holm, GFAA, founder and president of GFAA, kicked off the evening as “a whirlwind of pleasure and visual delight (to) share our passion for the 40 people strong of team GFAA that represents 20 counties and four continents around the world,” offering special thanks to the GFAA Young Visionaries Co-Chair and Marketing Committees.
A highlight of the evening was the GFAA Youniversal and YOU-2 Awards, based on people’s choice votes cast between Feb. 18 and Feb. 24, that respectively went to “Iran: Cradle of Civilisation” at the Drents Museum in Assen, Netherlands, and “Permanent Revolution: Ukrainian Art Today” at the Ludwig Muzeum in Budapest, Hungary.
“This exhibit was a very unique collaboration between both Ukrainian and Hungarian experts,” focused on “the burning social and political context of this region,” said Viktória Popovics, art historian and curator working at the Ludwig Museum.
The winners by category:
“John Akomfrah: Purple,” Barbican, London; Bildmuseet Umeå, Sweden; TBA21 Academy, Vienna,;The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; and Museu Coleção Berardo, Lisbon
“Art in the Age of the Internet, 1989 to Today,” Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston
Honorable Mentions: “Fred Wilson: Afro Kismet,” Istanbul Biennial, Pace London, and Pace New York, and “Skate Girls of Kabul,” Aga Khan Museum, Toronto
Best Post War / Contemporary (WWII-Present) – Solo Artist
“Jasper Johns: Something Resembling Truth,” Royal Academy of Arts, London, The Broad, Los Angeles
Best Post War/Contemporary (WWII-Present) – Group or Theme
“Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World,” Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Guggenheim Bilbao
Best Impressionist and Modern (1838-WWII) – Solo Artist
“Lucio Fontana: Ambienti / Environments,” Pirelli Hangar Bicocca, Milan
Best Impressionist and Modern (1838-WWII) – Group or Theme
“Living Proof: Drawing in 19th-Century Japan,” Pulitzer Arts Foundation, St. Louis
“Post Zang Tumb Tuuum. Art Life Politics: Italia 1918–1943,” Fondazione Prada, Milan
Best Renaissance, Baroque, Old Masters and Dynasties (1200 – 1838) – Solo Artist
“Rembrandt: Britain’s Discovery of the Master, “Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh
Honorable Mention: “UNKEI – The Great Master of Buddhist Sculpture,” Tokyo National Museum
Best Renaissance, Baroque, Old Masters and Dynasties (1200 – 1838) – Group or Theme
“Eternity and Time between Michelangelo and Caravaggio,” Musei San Domenico, Forlì, Italy
Honorable Mention: “Painted in Mexico 1700-1790: Pinxit Mexici (Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA), Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Best Ancient Art (circa 1200 BC)
“The World of the Fatimids,” Aga Khan Museum
Honorable Mention: “Mariana. A Bronze Age Kingdom in Turkmenistan,” Neues Museum, Berlin
Best Public or Outdoor Installation or Exhibition
“Softer: Jenny Holzer,” Blenheim Palace
Honorable Mention: “Georgia O’Keeffe: Visions of Hawai’I,” New York Botanical Garden
“Shape of Light,” Tate Modern, London
“Japan in Architecture: Genealogies of Its Transformation,” Mori Art Museum, Tokyo
Best Fringe / Alternative Exhibition
“Charles I: King and Collector,” Royal Academy of Arts, London
Besides research-based nominations, GFAA accepts open calls from museums, biennials, fairs, galleries and other art organizations, as well as individual patrons.