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Anila Quayyum Agha’s “Intersections” at the Grand Rapids Art Museum (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

After years of jokes about Jesus paintings and quilts seducing the art crowds flocking to the Grand Rapids-based ArtPrize art competition, this year the juried and popular votes have synched up to reveal one big winner.

Another view of Agha’s “Intersections”

Pakistan-born and Indianapolis-based Anila Quayyum Agha has swept the grand prizes, winning the $200,000 popular one, and splitting the purse for the $200,000 juried prize with Richmond, Virginia-based artist Sonya Clark.

Agha’s “Intersections” installation at the Grand Rapids Art Museum filled an entire gallery with a light source in the center of a laser-cut wooden cube. The lattice of shadows represents, according to the artist’s statement, “geometric patterning in Islamic sacred spaces, associated with certitude.” A play between the nature of public and private space, the work also challenges viewers by blurring the traditional boundaries of what constitutes an art work by placing attention as much on the shadows as the sculpted object itself.

For her “Hair Craft Project,” Sonya Clark explored the poetry and politics of black hair care specialists. Providing various artisans with silk thread and a canvas, Clark invited all the women to transfer their work into a gallery context. The results are abstract works of surprising energy, spontaneity, and craft. Clark was also selected as the winner of the juried 2-D category.

Images of Sonya Clark’s “Hair Craft Project” at the Kendall Galleries at the Kendall College of Art and Design.

The 2014 ArtPrize Grand Prize jury was chaired by Susan Sollins, executive director of Art21 in Manhattan, and artists Leonardo Drew of Brooklyn and Katharina Grosse of Düsseldorf.

Both artists, who are also female artists of color, represent the first year when public and juried selections have overlapped.

Tonight’s awards ceremony included various statements about diversity at ArtPrize. ArtPrize Executive Director Christian Gaines and Exhibitions Director Kevin Buist both mentioned diversity as part of their speeches, while ArtPrize founder Rick DeVos did not mention the topic. The reference to diversity may have been in response to ArtPrize finalist Steve Lambert’s statement that he would not be keeping any prize money in the event that he wins. During her acceptance speech, artist Anila Quayyum Agha also brought up the issue of diversity.

Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. You can follow him at @hragv.

9 replies on “Anila Quayyum Agha Sweeps ArtPrize, Winning Both Jury and Public Grand Prize Awards”

  1. “After years of jokes about Jesus paintings and quilts seducing the crowds flocking to ArtPrize, this year the juried and popular votes have synched up to reveal one big winner.”

    this mesmerizing work by anila quayyum agha is much too beautiful to be smeared by the negativity presented in the ‘lead’ of this article!

    admittedly i know nothing about the history of artprize, and am hardly a defender of christianity or quilts (except perhaps for amish quilt design which is quite extraordinary). however this lead ironically (with respect to the work itself) evokes the sort of narrow-mindedness and elitist discrimination which can only serve to further separate art at at time when we need (now more than ever) to call upon the transcendent power and impact of art to help us all evolve…

    in short, i think this lead takes away from the intent of the work itself, which certainly doesn’t need to denigrate anything in order for me to appreciate it.

  2. Gorgeous, perhaps, but what does it say? Seems like the same old same old to me. A bit of high tech flare (just like when flatscreens were new and EVERY video installation was on one, no matter what) from laser cutting and a whole lot of relatively empty beauty. Its nice and all, but outside of looking pretty, what is there to it???

    1. excuse my ignore Den, but i dont know much about contemporary art. Is there really a lot of this kind of work in the contemporary art landscape laser-cut wood that creates shadows as this one? Just wondering.

      BTW, i do agree with u, its a beautiful piece.

    2. There is a quote of the artist in the text: “geometric patterning in Islamic sacred spaces, associated with certitude.”
      Islamic religion doesn’t picture god as for example catholics do who have the
      picture of trinity in religious paintings. So she combined traditional
      Islamic pattering with a light source in the centre which supposably
      shows the precense of god.

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