Big Money

Austin art museum bestows one of the world's most ambitious prizes on New York artist

Austin art museum bestows ambitious prize on New York artist

Nicole Eisenman
Nicole Eisenman's "Sketch for a Fountain." Photo by Henning Rogge/The Contemporary Austin

For the second time, The Contemporary Austin has bestowed one of the art world's most prestigious prizes on an American artist. On August 3, the museum announced Nicole Eisenman as the recipient of the 2020 Suzanne Deal Booth/Flag Foundation Prize.

Eisenman's award includes $200,000 in cash; a solo show at The Contemporary; and up to $600,000 for production, travel costs, and the creation of an educational catalog. All combined, the prize is one of the world's most ambitious (read: largest) offered to working artists. 

The New York City-based Eisenman blends Western art history and traditional figures with "elements of punk music, feminist activism, queer sexuality, humor, and emotional rawness." The artist, who has been working for nearly four decades, has traditionally worked in two-dimensional formats (collage, painting, photography, etc.), but her work has recently expanded to include indoor and outdoor sculpture. 

"Nicole's recent turn to three-dimensional work is a testament to this next chapter: her anti-monumental and enigmatic sculptures bring the painted bodies from her canvases into three-dimensional space," said the Contemporary's Heather Pesanti in a release. "The relationship between these objects and her paintings was perhaps always present, and is a thread that the artist may be able to further explore through this exhibition and book."

Pesanti, who serves as chief curator and director of curatorial affairs for The Contemporary, led a seven person selection committee comprised of curators and art historians from some of the nation's top museums. "Nicole Eisenman is an artist with whom I've wanted to work for years, so it's incredibly exciting that the advisory committee selected her for this next prize," said Pesanti. 

In May, the museum announced it was expanding the prize, which was originally created by Austin art patron Suzanne Deal Booth in 2016. Today, the prize is a collaboration between the Austin museum, Booth, and the New York-based Flag Foundation. Following Eisenman's 2020 show at the Contemporary's Jones Center, it will move to the Flag Art Foundation.

Eisenman is the second recipient of the Booth Prize. The inaugural winner, Rodney McMillian, opened his exhibition "Against a Civic Death" at The Contemporary in February. It runs through August 26.