Nairy Baghramian is the winner of the 2022 Nasher Prize, an award given by the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas to a “living artist who elevates the understanding of sculpture and its possibilities.” As a part of the honor, Baghramian, who is based in Berlin, will receive $100,000.
She will also be celebrated at a ceremony in Dallas next spring, where she will receive an award designed by Renzo Piano, the architect of the sculpture center. Previous recipients of the prize include Michael Rakowitz, Doris Salcedo, Isa Genzken and Pierre Huyghe.
Jeremy Strick, the director of the sculpture center, said that the virtues of Baghramian’s work were particularly evident amid the social isolation of the pandemic. “After these many months of reduced personal contact with beloved people, places and things,” Strick said in a statement, “it was of the utmost importance to the jury to champion an artist who deals in realms of the physical — the tangible — and Nairy Baghramian’s work stood out for its deep commitment to the object-based traditions of sculpture.”
The artist Phyllida Barlow, one of nine jurors who made the selection, highlighted Baghramian’s way of engaging with the history of sculpture. “Baghramian’s visual language is rooted in traditions of sculptural form and shape,” she said in a statement, “but she transforms those traditions into profoundly personal relationships with diverse references — from the architectural to the anthropomorphic.”
Baghramian explained that she is especially pleased to win an award that doesn’t pit artist against artist. “What I like about the prize is that it’s not a competition, it’s not a visible competition between the artists,” she said in an interview last week. “It’s discreet and it’s beautiful how the jury members do their homework behind the scenes.”
On a practical level, the award is also welcome because it buys Baghramian time, an essential ingredient of her practice. “It needs time to produce, it needs time to struggle,” she said. That is why a substantial financial infusion is so helpful. “The production of sculpture doesn’t just fall from the heavens,” she added. “You work for it, and it needs support.