• Artists of the Year

Artists of the Year 2021

© A Gentil Carioca – Maxwell Alexandre, Conny Maier – Courtesy of König Galerie, Zhang Xu Zhan – Courtesy Project Fulfil Artspace

The award “Artist of the Year” is given at the recommendation of the Deutsche Bank Global Art Advisory Council, consisting of the renowned curators Hou Hanru, Udo Kittelmann and Victoria Noorthoorn. The award goes to a contemporary artist who has created an oeuvre that is artistically and socially relevant integrating the media of paper and photography, the two main areas of focus of the Deutsche Bank Collection.

With the award, the artist receives a solo exhibition at PalaisPopulaire in Berlin and a catalog accompanying the exhibition.

Maxwell Alexandre

30-year-old Maxwell Alexandre was born in Rocinha, Rio de Janeiro’s largest favela, where he still lives and works today. His paintings, performances, and installations are inspired by everyday life in Rocinha, revolving around racism and police violence, community and spirituality. References to icons of black culture such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Nina Simone, and James Brown appear again and again in his work. At the same time, Alexandre’s artistic practice is strongly influenced by the ideas of the Protestant Church, to which he no longer belongs. Alexandre, who comes from the skater scene, founded together with friends A Noiva, a kind of artists’ church which releases its own records, regards works of art as prayers, and views the studio as a temple. He is already a star in Brazil.

Maxwell Alexandre Video

Conny Maier

Berlin-born Conny Maier, who works in her hometown and in Baleal, Portugal, is also a phenomenon. Over the last few years, the trained fashion designer, who founded a fashion label, has caused a sensation as a painter. The circular mouths of her figures, which make them seem to cry, have become a kind of trademark. Maier’s paintings combine neo-expressive expression with a strong sense of color and composition. Her impressive work cycles focus on the existential interrelation between man and nature personified in a variety of animals.

Conny Maier Video

Zhang Xu Zhan

Zhang Xu Zhan was born in 1988 as the son of a family that has been trading for centuries in traditional paper figures used in Taiwan for ritual ceremonies or funerals. He continues this tradition in his animated films, sculptures, and video installations. Zhang Xu Zhan has built models of luxury houses and gigantic paper dolls. His main works include his stop-motion films, for which he makes filigree figures and landscapes out of papier-mâché. In them, Zhang Xu Zhan creates a fantastic cosmos populated by mythical creatures, singing animals and plants, and nature spirits, and dominated by ancient rituals—a world that is at once apocalyptic and fairytale-like.

Zhang Xu Zhan Video

Exhibition at the PalaisPopulaire, Berlin, opening September 15, 2021.

„Artists of the Year“ of the previous years

Caline Aoun 2018

Born in Beirut in 1983, Aoun is one of a generation of young Lebanese artists who grew up abroad after civil war broke out in 1975 and completed their artistic training outside the country. She studied in London at Central Saint Martins School of Art and Design and the Royal Academy Schools, completing her doctorate in fine arts at the University of East London in 2012. Originally using painting as a conceptual strategy to add another layer of mediation to the heavily mediated images she was exposed to, she decided briefly after completing her degree to abandon painting and began experimenting with photography and digital printing techniques.

Video   ArtMag

Kemang Wa Lehulere 2017

There is an incredible story behind the first painting in Kemang Wa Lehulere’s exhibition Bird Song. It seems as though the artist ferreted out a fragment of a mural under the KunstHalle’s white plaster. In point of fact, however, it is the reproduction of a picture from the former house of Gladys Mgudlandlu. In the 1960 she was the first black female artist in South Africa to have regular exhibitions at galleries, apartheid notwithstanding. On account of her predilection for birds, she was also called “Bird Lady.” But Mgudlandlu’s fame waned quickly. When she died in 1979, her work was worth so little that the murals were simply painted over.

Video   ArtMag

Basim Magdy 2016

Bodiless voices speak of the evanescence of memory. In silent forests, stone monuments look at us as though they want to tell us they will outlive us all. They are surrounded by a blended aura of brilliant colors. Insects glide over the surface of a pond and buzz away. Basim Magdy’s 2014 film The Many Colors of the Sky Radiate Forgetfulness draws the viewer into a vortex of images, sound, and text, conjuring up a time in which the apocalypse seems to have already taken place. Nature recaptures its lost territory. Save for one relic, people have been forgotten. And what remains does not attest to a glorious past. We see war memorials and stuffed animals—museum objects that celebrate battles, the dead, and the subjugation of nature.

Video   ArtMag

Koki Tanaka 2015

The Japanese artist calls his work “art activism.” A Vulnerable Narrator, his exhibition as “Artist of the Year” at the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle, is akin to a workshop linking projects, ideas, and documents spanning nearly a decade. It documents the path from Tanaka’s early experiments with mass products and materials to his later collective actions and performances. Videos such as Everything Is Everything (2006) and Walking Through (2009) recall a series of experiments. In them, he subjects cheap products from household goods and hardware stores to various tests. The artist, born in 1975, is interested in how sensitively and openly we perceive everyday things and how we can develop a new relationship to them.

Video   ArtMag

Victor Man 2014

Victor Man’s paintings look like they have darkened over centuries. There’s something sacred about them, like the images and devotional objects hanging in the faint light of chapels and churches. In our enlightened, medialized world, in which everything is on the surface and things have to be “brought to light,” they look like something from another era. His works take the viewer into an enigmatic cosmos in which strange metamorphoses take place under the veil of darkness. In Man’s work, animate and inanimate, human and animal, male and female, appear to be in constant exchange and, as in an alchemistic process, undergoing a fusion.

Video   ArtMag

Imran Qureshi 2013

It seems as though the huge golden ovals hanging in the central room of the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle have absorbed the blood-red paint on them. In the interior of the egg shapes, blossoms sprout from red splashes. As though through delicate veins, the red pulsates over the canvases, drips, sprays, flows. Imran Qureshi’s paintings are at once cold and warm. Covered with gold leaf, they emanate an almost sacred stringency. They hang in the room like icons. But inside the works, everything is full of movement, organic, dirty, human. Qureshi’s paintings convey both a kind of viral anarchic energy and extreme control. This tension runs through all of his current work, reflecting a very fundamental real conflict. Order can create clarity and tranquility, but it can also restrict and suppress. We are afraid of change, unrest, and destruction, which can culminate in violence and bloodshed. At the same time, they form the basis of the creative process, for the genesis of something new.

Video   ArtMag

Roman Ondák 2012

Roman Ondák deepens our understanding of social conventions and hierarchies, whether in the art world or society at large. His installations and actions question prevailing conditions in a subtle but deliberate manner. To examine what is seemingly self-evident in order to generate new ideas for shaping our future is a goal of Deutsche Bank’s commitment to art. This is why the bank honors international contemporary artists pursuing unique paths with its Artist of the Year award. The focus is on younger artists for whom works on paper or photography play a key role in their oeuvres. Following Kenyan artist Wangechi Mutu in 2010 and the Moroccan Yto Barrada in 2011, Ondák, who was born in 1966 in Žilina, Slovakia, and is one of the most exciting figures in Eastern Europe, is Deutsche Bank’s 2012 Artist of the Year, a selection made on the recommendation of the Deutsche Bank Global Art Advisory Council, comprised of the renowned curators Okwui Enwezor, Hou Hanru, Udo Kittelmann, and Nancy Spector.


Yto Barrada 2011

For over a decade now, Yto Barrada has been intensively investigating the social realities in her native country of Morocco. In 2011, as Deutsche Bank's “Artist of the Year,” she showed the exhibition Riffs at the Deutsche Guggenheim. Following its premiere in Berlin, the show made guest appearances in WIELS, Brussels; the Renaissance Society, Chicago; the IKON Gallery in Birmingham; and the Museo d’arte contemporanea Roma (MACRO), Rome. The exhibition tour ended in 2013 at the Fotomuseum Winterthur. An entire floor in the Deutsche Bank Towers in Frankfurt is dedicated to the artist’s work.

Video   ArtMag

Wangechi Mutu 2010

Mutu, who has been living in New York for a long time, counters the notion of an “African” artist drawing from her native culture with images from multiple perspectives. Like many “diaspora artists,” she combines elements of her native culture with those of the West.