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Cildo Meireles Wins Iconic Roswitha Haftmann Prize With $174K Prize Money

Brazilian artist Cildo Meireles became the first Latin American artist to win the Roswitha Haftmann Prize, one of the largest art prizes in the world.

The award is named after Roswitha Haftmann, a very prominent art dealer. She was behind the Zurich Gallery, a major art player in Europe until her death in 1998. After her death, her foundation established the award to recognize living artists with significant contributions to the art world. The prize carries a purse of 150,000 Swiss Francs (roughly $174,000) – the largest art purse in Europe.

Cildo Meireles was born in Rio de Janeiro and currently resides there. As a sculptor, Meireles first came under the spotlight for his series ‘Insertions Into Ideological Circuits’ in the 1970s. The series took regular objects – Coca-Cola cans, banknotes – which symbolized the capitalistic system and annotated them with anti-colonial and anti-capitalist slogans. The series, which was critical of the Brazilian government and politicians at the time, became hugely popular at the time. Babel (2001) was another popular work. It was a large-scale installation in the shape of a TV tower, with various children’s programs playing on different screens. Talking about the artist, Yilmaz Dziewior (Director, Museum Ludwig in Cologne), a board member, said: “The jury was impressed by the artist’s exceptional talent for involving his audience both intellectually and emotionally with politically charged and aesthetically fascinating works.”

The award has been given for the past 22 years, though not annually. Gülsün Karamustafa, the 2021 winner, was recently chosen to represent the Turkish pavilion at the 2024 Venice Biennale. Previous winners include Valie Export, Cindy Sherman, and Maria Lassnig.