Doris Salcedo (courtesy of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum)

Colombian artist Doris Salcedo is the winner of the inaugural Numera Art Award, the largest prize in the art world today. The artist will walk home with an astonishing $1 million in cash. The winner was announced today, October 31, at a gala dinner in Shanghai.

The immense prize is given by Nomura Holdings Inc., a financial services company based in Japan, which announced in March of this year that it will be awarding the $1 million on an annual basis. The award is given to one artist every year to be used “in whole or in part” to support an ambitious new project that the winner did not previously have the means to realize.

This year’s award was juried by a lineup of art world heavyweights: Max Hollein, director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; Kathy Halbreich, executive director of the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation; Nicholas Serota, chair of the Arts Council England; Yuko Hasegawa, artistic director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo; Allan Schwartzman, co-leader of the Fine Art Division of Sotheby’s; and Doryun Chong, a chief curator at M+ in Hong Kong. The late Okwui Enwezor, a renowned independent curator, critic, author, and editor, served on the panel before dying in March of this year. The prize is given by nomination only (no applications are accepted). Two $100,000 Emerging Artist Awards were given to Chinese artist Cheng Ran and New York-based artist Cameron Rowland.

“The news that I had been chosen to receive the inaugural Nomura Art Award was entirely unexpected and filled me with overwhelming humility and gratitude for the generosity and responsibility that come with this great honor,” said Salcedo in a statement. “Producing projects capable of honoring the experience of victims of violence requires a large investment in time and organization, sometimes with many collaborators,” she continued. “Because of this Award, I am now able to move ahead much more quickly than I had expected with a project that is important to me, and that I hope will touch many people.”

Doris Salcedo, “A Flor de Piel” (detail) (2013), rose petals and thread (Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of Mr. G. David Thompson, in memory of his son, G. David Thompson, Jr., Class of 1958, by exchange; purchase through the generosity of Elaine Levin in honor of Mary Schneider Enriquez; and purchase through the generosity of Deborah and Martin Hale, 2014.133. © Doris Salcedo, photo by Joerg Lohse, image courtesy the artist and Alexander and Bonin, New York, and White Cube, London)

The Bogotá-based artist is expected to use the new funds to continue developing her ongoing Acts of Mourning series, which she started in 1999. The project is comprised of a series of large-scale installations that commemorate victims of Colombia’s civil war, which lasted for more than 50 years, to help communities in coping with their loss.

In June of this year, Salcedo staged the latest edition of the series, Quebrantos (Shattered), in which the names of murdered community leaders where spelled in shattered glass at a central plaza in Bogotá. The artist is planning future memorials in remote regions of Colombia, which suffered most in the civil war.

“We offer this Award to Doris Salcedo in recognition of the deeply meaningful and formally inventive body of work she has created over the past quarter of a century,” said Hajime Ikeda, senior managing director of Nomura, in the award ceremony today. “We are proud that this award will help her to create her next important project.”

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Hakim Bishara

Hakim Bishara is a Senior Editor at Hyperallergic. He is also a co-director at Soloway Gallery, an artist-run space in Brooklyn. Bishara is a recipient of the 2019 Andy Warhol Foundation and Creative Capital...