Ai Weiwei and Sanaa Win Praemium Imperiales for Sculpture, Architecture

Dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei won Japan’s 2022 Praemium Imperiale Award for sculpture while Tokyo-based architecture firm Sanaa received the honor for architecture. The international prize has been awarded annually since 1989 by the Japan Art Association, which is under the patronage of Prince Hitachi, and additionally encompasses the fields of painting, theater/film, and music. Giulio Paolini, Wim Wenders, and Krystian Zimmerman won the awards in those categories. Each recipient of the honor is awarded ¥15 million ($104,500).  

Ai was cited particularly for his 2009 project Remembering, which honors the 5,000 children who died in the Sichuan earthquake of 2008, crushed inside shoddily constructed schools. The group show “Freedom,” which Ai is curating, opens at the Southbank Centre in London October 27. The show, which will occupy the exhibition space of the Royal Festival Hall through December 18, features work made by those incarcerated in the UK as well that made by individuals in the country’s secure mental health facilities, deportation centers, and juvenile institutions and people doing community service. Ai himself has been incarcerated having been arrested on charges of tax fraud by the Chinese government in 2011 and held for eighty-one days in a secret prison.

Sanaa, who are tasked with the expansion of Moscow’s Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, are the architects behind the recent transformation of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, a transparent glass structure sitting atop a pair of defunct World War II oil tanks. The firm additionally designed the Louvre Lens in northern France; 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa, Japan; the Serpentine Galleries in London; and the New Museum in New York.


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