Emeka Ogboh, “The Way Earthly Things Are Going” (2017), multichannel sound installation and real-time LED display of world stock indexes, installation view: Documenta 14, Athens Conservatoire (Odeion), Athens (photo by Mathias Völzke)

The six finalists for the 2018 Hugo Boss Prize were announced today, a group of artists whose origins and practices range from West and Central Africa to Europe and North America. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum’s artistic director and chief curator, Nancy Spector, announced the shortlist, touting the artists for “exploring urgent social issues, and providing new artistic vocabulary through which to examine personal and universal themes.” The finalists are: Bouchra Khalili, who was born in Casablanca and now works in Berlin and Oslo; Simone Leigh, born in Chicago and now residing in Brooklyn; Teresa Margolles, born in Sinaloa, Mexico and now living in Mexico City; Emeka Ogboh, born in Enugu, Nigeria and currently living in Lagos and Berlin; Frances Stark, who was born in Newport Beach, California, and now resides in Los Angeles; and Wu Tsang, who was born in Worcester, Massachusetts and now lives in Los Angeles.

Hugo Boss Prize finalist Wu Tsang, “We hold where study” (2017) two-channel color HD video, with sound, 18 minutes, 56 seconds; installation view: Kunsthalle Münster, 2017 (courtesy the artist and Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin, photo by Roman Mensing)

The biannual prize, which was inaugurated in 1996, to “recognize excellence in the visual arts” is administered by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. It offers one of the largest cash prizes to artists working in the field of contemporary art ($100,000). Past winners have included Tacita Dean, Emily Jacir, Hans-Peter Feldmann, Danh Vo, Paul Chan, and Anicka Yi. As in the past, the winner, to be announced fall of next year, will also receive a solo exhibition at the museum in 2019. The jury that will decide on the winner is an international body consisting of Nancy Spector, Dan Fox, co-editor of Frieze magazine; Sofía Hernández Chong Cuy, Curator for the Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros; Bisi Silva, the artistic director of the Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos; Susan Thompson, an associate curator at the Guggenheim; and Joan Young, the director of curatorial affairs at the Guggenheim.

Bouchra Khalili, “The Tempest Society” (2017) color video with sound, 60 minutes; installation view: Documenta 14, Athens School of Fine Art, Athens; (courtesy the artist, photo by Stathis Mamalakis)

Like other recent developments in the art scene, the selection of the artists for the Boss Prize shortlist and the ultimate choice of the winner seems to be inflected by the political turmoil of the moment. In a statement released the jurors said they are attentive to how each artist “pursues deeply existential inquiries into individual struggles as well as those with broader social resonances … [and] have demonstrated a commitment to bringing art to the center of timely debates in society.” We will have to wait until next year to see whether the winner’s work actually lives up to these principles.

Seph Rodney, PhD, is a senior critic for Hyperallergic and has written for the New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, and other publications. He is featured on the podcast The...