Update: The prize for Project of the Year has been won by Pavel Pepperstein, with Albert Soldatov taking the Young Artist award.
The winners of this year’s Kandinsky Prize, one of Russia’s most prestigious contemporary art awards, will be announced on 11 December with three artists competing in each of the two main categories.
The shortlist for Project of the Year includes mixed media artist Irina Korina, photographer Lilia Li-Mi-Yan (featured above), and writer and artist Pavel Pepperstein. The finalists in the Young Artist category are video artist Albert Soldatov, composer Elena Rykova and street artist Timofey Radya. Winners will receive €40,000 and €10,000 respectively.
The 2008 winner of Russian state-backed Innovation Prize, Korina’s room-sized installations in Refrain incorporate sculpture and everyday objects, exploring the condition of post-Soviet utopian disarray in Russia’s city centres.
The photography project from Turkmenistan-born documentary photographer Lilia Li-Mi-Yan, Masters and Servants, is a manifestation of her desire to show human existence from a variety of different perspectives. Her selection of photographs provides a visual survey into the lives of house owners and the service industry personnel who work in them.
Pavel Pepperstein, known for fusing both the visual arts and literature, investigates contemporary cultural and political landscapes with his artworks. His entry for the Kandinsky Prize is no exception, as his project, Holy Politics, features ten paintings and numerous watercolours that project his childlike, beatific view of today’s political reality.
A graduate of the Moscow conservatoire, composer Elena Rykova’s installation The Mirror of Galadriel — a man and a woman interacting with each other on either side of a ping-pong table — is about non-verbal communication, with the two people, one influencing the other, representing the possibilities of understanding oneself through reflection.
Albert Soldatov’s video installation Balthus features ten scenes, each formally representing characters from the Polish-French artist Balthus’ paintings. Each of the characters, frozen in idleness and appearing as though in a trance, is a comment on the meaningless dimension of the internet age.
Yekaterinburg street artist Timofey Radya has proved himself to be one of Russia’s most important street artists. With each installation accompanied by a political message, Radya’s artwork is often a vehicle for biting attacks on the Russian government. The piece entered for this prize, All I Know About Street Art, is a large-scale inscription across the outside wall of a warehouse, featuring a comprehensive account of the experience acquired by Radya over the last three years of practising street art.
The prize has not been without controversy. In its second year in 2008, the announcement of the winner of the prize, artist Alexei Belyaev-Gintovt, who is also the chairman of neo-fascist group Eurasian Youth Union, sparked cries of “Shame on the jury!” from audience members. The winning project, Daughter Russia, featured images harking back to Russia’s communist past and its Orthodox Christian heritage.
In 2012, Pussy Riot’s expletive-filled Punk Prayer — a performance which earned two of the members time in prison — was longlisted for the Project of the Year award.
By selecting artists who practice a range of disciplines and who differ in their political views, the Kandinsky Prize has fostered a reputation for independence in a country where cultural figures who subscribe to the Kremlin’s views are more likely to be offered financial support.
The award, which pitches itself as Russia’s answer to the UK’s Turner Prize, was created in 2007 to help develop Russian contemporary art and to bolster its reputation on a world stage.