Pierre Huyghe Wins American Art’s Contemporary Artist Award

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Yesterday, the American Art Museum announced that French artist Pierre Huyghe is this year's winner of the museum's biennial Contemporary Artist Award. The $25,000 prize is awarded to a contemporary artist under the age of 50 who has already amassed a significant oeuvre and demonstrates great creativity and vision.

"Pierre Huyghe represents the commitment to creative innovation that this award seeks to recognize," said the director of the museum Elizabeth Broun in a report. "Huyghe's pioneering use of appropriated imagery and filmic reenactment reveal the power of mass media to shape our memory of personal and historical events."

Huyghe is best known as a media artist who uses video and light installation to explore the boundary between fiction and reality in today's society. One video work, "The Journey That Wasn't," showed footage from Huyghe's search for an albino penguin in Antarctica. Of the work, Huyghe told PBS, "It's called that because the journey happened... or did not. It was also kind of a mental journey, and maybe that's the one I'm most interested in. The film is literally a process, a process of finding an idea and bringing it to light... We just invent fiction and we give ourselves the real means to discover it."

"The Host and the Cloud," pictured above, is a film shot at a closed museum on Halloween, Valentines Day and May Day. Characters such as the Grim Reaper and ET make random cameos as the video explores the relationship between their images and popular media.

One notable installation by Huyghe shown at the Tate Modern museum in London is a series of words in white light lettering that complete the phrase, "I don't own" with "Tate Modern or the Death Star," "Snow White," or "Modern Times." The words are punctuated by white doors in the middle of a white room. PBS' Art 21 Web site has slideshows and more information on Huyghe's work.

Huyghe was born in Paris in 1962 and attended the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs. His work has been shown around the world, with notable solo exhibitions at London's Tate Modern in 2006, the Carpenter Center at Harvard University in 2004, the Guggenheim Museum in New York City in 2003, as well as the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, to name a few. He has won several awards, including a special award from the Venice Biennale jury in 2001. The artist is the ninth winner of the Contemporary Artist Award, formerly known as the Lucelia Artist Award, and was chosen from 15 other nominees by a panel of five judges from various museums and art institutions.

"I am thrilled that the jury has selected such an innovative and influential individual to receive the museum's artist award," said Joanna Marsh, curator of contemporary art at the museum. "Pierre Huyghe's work expands traditional expectations of what art can be."

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