Nicole Eisenman wins $200,000 Suzanne Deal Booth / FLAG Art Foundation Prize


Nicole Eisenman is the winner of the 2020 Suzanne Deal Booth / FLAG Art Foundation Prize, the Contemporary Austin announced today.

Eisenman receives a $200,000 unrestricted cash prize and she will present a solo exhibition premiering in February 2020 at the Contemporary Austin’s downtown venue, the Jones Center with the option to extend the exhibition to the museum’s sculpture park at Laguna Gloria. A scholarly catalog will also be produced.

A related exhibition will then travel to the FLAG Art Foundation in New York where it will open in fall 2020.

The biennial Suzanne Deal Booth/FLAG Art Foundation Prize — administered by the Contemporary Austin — includes $600,000 to exhibition production expenses. It is one of the art world’s largest prizes to an individual artist and is awarded by a committee to a visual artist of any nationality, working in any medium and at any stage in their career.

Nicole Eisenman
Nicole Eisenman. Image courtesy the artist and Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects. Photograph © Nathan Perkel.

Primarily known for her paintings full of pathos and dark humor that pull equally from art history, queer politics and pop culture, the 53-year-old Brookly-based Eisenman has been heralded as one of the leading figurative painters of her generation. More recently Eisenman has begun making three-dimensional, figurative work — indoor and outdoor sculptures and installations that both reference and depart from conventional forms and narratives.

A 2015 winner of the MacArthur Fellowship — aka the “genius grant” — Eisenman was this year nominated into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She is also the recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship (1996), the Carnegie Prize and the Louis Comfort Tiffany Grant (1995). In 2014, a 20-year retrospective exhibit of her work, “Dear Nemesis, Nicole Eisenman 1993–2013,” was organized by Philadelphia’s Institute of Contemporary Art.

Though Eisenman has already achieved major commendations, Louis Grachos, executive director and CEO of the Contemporary, said that awarding her the Booth/FLAG prize was in keeping with the award’s foundational mission to offer an artist unfettered support.

“Eisenman’s recent turn toward sculpture is huge shift in her practice really matches what this award is all about — to propel an artist toward developing a new body of work,” said Grachos.

Heather Pesanti, chief curator and director of curatorial affairs at the Contemporary Austin, said the open nature of the award will allow Eisenman to explore new directions and create new work.

“(Eisenman’s) anti-monumental and enigmatic sculptures bring the painted bodies from her canvases into three-dimensional space,” said Pesanti. “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.”

Initiated in 2016 with funds donated by Deal Booth — a major Austin-based arts patron and a trustee of the Contemporary — the inaugural $100,000 Suzanne Deal Booth Art Prize recently celebrated its first exhibition. “Against a Civic Death” features Los Angeles-based Rodney McMillian.

Then in May, the Austin museum announced the expansion and renaming of the award after New York arts patrons Glenn and Amanda Fuhrman matched Deal Booth’s philanthropy, doubling the size of the prize and adding a showing of the exhibit at Fuhrman’s private museum, the FLAG Art Foundation in New York.

Fuhrman is a collector and co-founder of MSD Capital, an investment firm that exclusively manages the capital of Michael Dell and his family.

Artists are selected for the Booth/FLAG award by a rotating, independent advisory committee made up of curators and art historians of contemporary art.

In addition to Pesanti, this year’s advisory committee included Ian Berry, Dayton Director of The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery and Professor of Liberal Arts at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY; Lauren Haynes, Curator, Contemporary Art at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR; Eungie Joo, Curator of Contemporary Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA; Helen Molesworth, critic; and Lilian Tone, Assistant Curator, Department of Painting and Sculpture, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; along with institutional advisor Stephanie Roach, Director of The FLAG Art Foundation.


Jeanne Claire van Ryzin
Jeanne Claire van Ryzin
An award-winning arts journalist, Jeanne Claire van Ryzin is the founder and editor-in-chief of Sightlines.

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