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  • May 25, 2018

Michael Rakowitz Wins Herb Alpert Award In The Arts

Iraqi-American artist MICHAEL RAKOWITZ has been announced as this year’s winner of the Herb Alpert Award in the visual arts category. Courtesy the Herb Alpert Foundation, Los Angeles.

On May 17, Iraqi-American artist Michael Rakowitz was announced as this year’s winner in the visual arts category of the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts, receiving an unrestricted USD 75,000 cash prize. According to the official award website, Rakowitz was recognized for his “inventive and useful procedures” in his artistic practice, which utilize sculpture, video, performance and architectural interventions to probe Iraq’s culture, political history, and thorny relations with the United States.  

Rakowitz was selected by a three-person jury comprising Los Angeles-based independent curator Cecilia Fajardo-Hill; Omar Kholeif, Manilow senior curator and director of Global Initiatives at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; and New York-based artist and 1996 winner of the Herb Alpert Award, Carrie Mae Weems. The annual prize recognizes mid-career artists across visual and performing arts.

Beginning his art career as a graphic designer, Rakowitz has become known for works in which narrative and space are ingeniously intertwined, exploring the ways that places, objects and, notably, food, speak to culture, political trauma, and collective memory, as in Enemy Kitchen (2003– ), a mobile food truck that serves his mother’s Iraqi-Jewish cuisine, and Spoils (2011), a collaboration with a New York restaurant in which diners were served gourmet dishes on plates looted from Saddam Hussein’s palace.

The other recipients of the 2018 Herb Alpert Awards in Arts are composer and pianist Courtney Bryan, artist and filmmaker Arthur Jafa, playwright Robert O’Hara, and choreographer Okwui Okpokwasili, for their contributions to music, film, theatre and dance respectively. 

Speaking about the awardees, Irene Borger, director of the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts, stated, “At this fraught moment, it’s a powerful antidote to honor and support this year’s winners, who are alert to the world, rigorous in their reach, and fiercely engaged with that which is undepicted, unheard, misnamed, unspoken, buried, and marginalized.”

The annual award was established by the Herb Alpert Foundation, a non-profit arts organization, in 1994, and is administered by the California Institute of the Arts.

Pamela Wong is an editorial intern of ArtAsiaPacific.

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