The New Suzanne Deal Booth/FLAG Art Foundation Prize is One of the Art World’s Largest

The $200,000 unrestricted prize will be award biennially to one artist

Rodney McMillian, Untitled (neighbors), 2017. Single-channel video, color, sound. Edition of 3, 2 AP. Running time: 19:04, loop. Commissioned by The Contemporary Austin, with funds provided by the Suzanne Deal Booth Art Prize. Installation view, Rodney McMillian: Against a Civic Death, The Contemporary Austin – Jones Center on Congress Avenue, Austin, Texas, 2018. Artwork © Rodney McMillian. Courtesy the artist, Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, and Maccarone, New York. Image courtesy The Contemporary Austin. Photograph by Colin Doyle.

One the largest awards on the international contemporary art landscape  — the Austin-based Suzanne Deal Booth Art Prize — has doubled its capacity, thanks to additional funding by New York arts patrons Glenn and Amanda Fuhrman.

The newly named Suzanne Deal Booth/FLAG Art Foundation Prize will fund a $200,000 unrestricted biennial award to an individual artist. It will also underwrite $600,000 production expenses for the winning artist’s solo exhibition of new work that will premiere at The Contemporary Austin and then be presented at the FLAG Art Foundation in New York, the private museum Fuhrman founded in 2008. The prize also includes the publication of a catalog of the artist’s work.

The commitment from Deal Booth and the Fuhrmans includes $600,000 per award cycle to cover the costs for the creation of new work, exhibition installation in Austin, exhibition travel to New York, the catalog and related public programming.

At a total of $800,000, the Suzanne Deal Booth/FLAG Art Foundation Prize is one of the art world’s largest.

The prize winner, chosen by an independent curatorial committee whose line-up will change with each biennial award, can be an artist of any age, of any nationality and working in any medium.

The Contemporary and the FLAG announced the new award Wednesday. Deal Booth and the Fuhrmans have committed to jointly funding four prizes biennially through 2026.

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 is now celebrating its first exhibition. “Against a Civic Death” features Los Angeles-based Rodney McMillian. The catalog of the exhibit, which includes a history of McMillian’s performance-based work, will be published by Radius Books and the Contemporary this fall.

“It’s a great compliment to what we’ve already done to have the FLAG Foundation (join the support of the award),” said Deal Booth. “Entry of the FLAG Foundation adds another dimension and will bring terrific opportunities to the artists, jurors and The Contemporary on many levels as it expands to local, national and global communities.”

Fuhrman said he had been casting about to launch his own art award similar to the Booth Prize when he had a realization. “I called Suzanne to see if she would be open to collaborating and without skipping a beat she said yes,” Fuhrman said. “It all came together really quickly and I’m extremely optimistic for the artists that will be involved, and for the FLAG and the Contemporary.”

Left to right: Amanda and Glenn Fuhrman with Suzanne Deal Booth and LeMel Humes at The Contemporary Austin. Photograph: Whitney Arostegui.

Deal Booth noted that the rarity of a combined philanthropic effort also made the move appealing to her. “Why not collaborate and work together and make the impact of the prize even bigger? So few (philanthropists) do that in the art world.”

She said she was particularly excited about what an award of international stature could bring to Austin. “It makes the city exceptional as a place for contemporary art and will draw in people from everywhere.”

The first artist recipient of the 2020 Deal Booth/FLAG prize will be announced in mid-July.

Fuhrman has strong ties to Austin. He is co-founder of MSD Capital, an investment firm that exclusively manages the capital of Michael Dell and his family. In 2013, the Fuhrmans, Dell and his wife Susan, and Amy and John Phelan, donated the historically significant Magnum Photos collection, valued at $200 million, to the University of Texas. Phelan co-founded MSD with Furman.

As a patron and philanthropist, Deal Booth’s interests straddle contemporary art and cultural heritage preservation. She founded Friends of Heritage Preservation, which supports arts preservation projects worldwide. In Houston, her patronage brought James Turrell’s “Twilgiht Ephiphany” skyspace to the Rice University campus. Most recently in Austin, Deal Booth was a major supporter of Ellsworth Kelly’s “Austin” at the Blanton Museum of Art. In addition to the Contemporary, she serves on the boards on the Menil Collection, Ballroom Marfa, Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Centre Pompidou Foundation.

Independent critic Helen Molesworth, who is on the 2020 curatorial panel, said, “Of all the awards I’ve been asked to nominate this is the easiest. There is no underestimating what it can do for an artist.”

“While money can be very catalytic for any artist’s career, the commitment to publishing a catalog is a commitment to ideas and how ideas are received in the world,” Molesworth said. “A book is an historical record of an artist’s work and (the prize’s inclusion of a catalog) speaks of a commitment to ideas and history.”

Other jurors are Ian Berry, director of The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College; Lauren Haynes, curator of contemporary art at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art; Eungie Joo, curator of contemporary art at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Lilian Tone, assistant curator in the Department of Painting and Sculpture, at the Museum of Modern Art.

Heather Pesanti, chief curator and director of curatorial affairs at The Contemporary Austin, and Stephanie Roach, director of The FLAG Art Foundation will serve as institutional advisors.

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