This morning, Deana Lawson was announced the winner of the 2020 Hugo Boss Prize via Instagram. A photographer born in Rochester, New York, and based in Bed Stuy, Lawson’s large-format images—mostly portraits—foreground Black diasporic experience and culture. Her work has appeared in solo exhibitions at the Huis Marseille, Museum voor Fotografie in Amsterdam; The Underground Museum in Los Angeles; and the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, among other institutions.
The prize includes a $100,000 honorarium and a solo exhibition at the Guggenheim in New York, opening next spring. She is the first artist working in photography to receive the Prize. “As we’re all aware, 2020 has been a trying year on so many fronts,” she said in a statement. “It is during this moment that I feel the most call to continue the work of image-making, understanding that photographs have immense power, and reimagining new thresholds for evolution and liberation.”
Established in 1996, the biennial award recognizes “significant achievement in contemporary art,” drawing its victor from a shortlist of six. (This year’s other contenders, hailing from the United States, Iran, Ethiopia, Chile, and Argentina, were Kevin Beasley, Nairy Baghramian, Elias Sime, Cecilia Vicuña, and Adrián Villar Rojas.) The 2020 jury for the Hugo Boss Prize was chaired by Nancy Spector, the artistic director and Jennifer and David Stockman Chief Curator of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, and made up of curators from across the country. Announcing the finalists last November, Spector praised the artists’ disparate practices as “beacons of cultural impact,” adding, “While diverse in their approaches and themes, they each exemplify the spirit of experimentation and innovation that the prize has always championed.”
Among the Prize’s previous winners are Matthew Barney (1996), Tacita Dean (2006), Danh Vo (2012), and, most recently, the American sculptor Simone Leigh (2018), who was tapped last week to represent the United States at the 2022 Venice Biennale.