The Vincent Award for Contemporary Art has been Cancelled!
Held every two years, the prestigious Vincent Award will not see its 2016 winners, for the first time since its conception in 2000. One of the world’s leading contemporary art prizes has been officially cancelled this year, some three months after two artists rejected their respective nominations. In January, Nairy Baghramian and Jutta Koether withdrew from participating shortly after they were announced as shortlisted, and while Koether cited “a personal matter,” Baghramian referenced the legal dispute between artist Dahn Vō and the Dutch art collector Bert Kreuk. Although indirectly involved in the case, the international jury of the Vincent Award found their mention would nevertheless compromise other nominated artists and has decided to cancel the event altogether.
The Dahn Vo vs Bert Kreuk Legal Feud – What Went Down?
In December 2015, a bitter legal dispute between a wealthy Dutch collector Bert Kreuk and contemporary artist Dahn Vō was finally settled after two years. The case revolved around a work Kreuk allegedly commissioned from the Danish-Vietnamese artist in 2013, for an exhibition at the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague – the venue which has been hosting the Vincent Award since 2014. According to the dealer, the large-scale installation in question was to cost €350,000, but was never delivered by Vō, which led to the lawsuit. The artist, on the other hand, claimed he never received such commission. In summer 2014, a Rotterdam judge ruled in favour of Bert Kreuk, ordering Dahn Vō to complete the work within one year or face daily fines of €10,000 for each day he would be late. After a months-long session of name-callings and claims thrown from each side, the case ended with an agreement, stating that Vō did not, in fact, have to create the work for Kreuk.
Why is the Vincent Award Involved?
In a letter to the Vincent Award committee and jury members, published by Hyperallergic in January, Berlin-based Iranian artist Nairy Baghramian expressed her concern with the stance that the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague took during the Kreuk-Vō trial while acknowledging Vincent Award’s independence from the institution. “Based on my insights, it seems safe to say that the museum didn’t assume a neutral stance in the private confrontation between two parties, but rather played an active role in this legal dispute and even stood against the artist who was invited to and exhibited in the museum,” said Baghramian in her statement. In her opinion, the museum should have remained independent and kept a neutral position in a private affair like that. “This makes the whole situation at hand seem quite precarious to me and it makes me feel weakened in my position as an artist in the context of institutional representation.” The artist refers to Dahn Vō’s claims that the director and chief curator of the Gemeentemuseum both made false witness declarations about him agreeing to do the commissioned work.
The organization of the Vincent Award responded to these comments in the statement released on April 8, announcing the cancellation of this year’s prize ceremony, describing the museum as a mere witness of the dispute. In the announcement regarding the withdrawal, they also wrote that ”the museum answered questions under oath of both the judge and both parties’ lawyers” and that it was ”never party to this case.” As a result, the Vincent Award will not be held this year at all, as ”The jury believes that the recent discussion has overshadowed the intentions of the award and could eventually comprise the nominated artists.” A new edition of the Vincent Award is scheduled for 2018.
Gemeentemuseum Den Haag – The Vincent Award 2014
Should the Artists Boycott the Gemeentemuseum and the Vincent Award?
It appears that Nairy Baghramian and Jutta Koether are not the only artists who refused to have anything to do with the Gemeentemuseum. According to artnet, the institution invited Croatian David Maljković to fill one of the empty nominee spaces, which he declined without stating a reason. Around the same time, artistic duo Elmgreen & Dragset also rejected to work on a project at the museum. In turn, Bert Kreuk called the entire thing ”a deliberate and coordinated attempt to publicly shame an independent institution”, as most of the artists in question appear to be close friends with Dahn Vō.
If the Gemeentemuseum officials did testify in favour of Bert Kreuk in a case that in the end proved him guilty, it is understandable that the artists, close to Dahn Vō or not, feel that the museum indeed has a tendency to behave against their interest. Subsequently, The Vincent Award is now suffering similar consequences because they stand by their venue, which was somewhat to be expected from them anyway. Perhaps the most practical solution to this problem would be for the award organisers to find a new platform for their ceremony, because in the end, their prize should be more about the artists and their work, and less about where it all takes place.
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Featured image: The Vincent Award, via thevincentaward.com. All images used for illustrative purposes only.