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Artists of the Year

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These are Deutsche Bank’s Artists of the Year 2021

A decade ago, Deutsche Bank initiated the Artist of the Year award. The concept was completely new at that time. Instead of providing a cash prize, as is usually the case, the aim is to make up-and-coming artists who work primarily with paper or photography better known to a broad public by purchasing their works for the Deutsche Bank Collection, through a comprehensive catalog, and with a solo exhibition.

Maxwell Alexandre, Conny Maier, Zhang Xu Zhan

Since Wangechi Mutu, who resides in New York and Nairobi, was chosen as the first Artist of the Year in 2010, the art world and the world in general have changed dramatically. Since then, many of the previous award winners, including Yto Barrada, Koki Tanaka, and Kemang Wa Lehulere, have experienced their breakthrough on the international art scene. Which is reason enough to celebrate, but also to introduce a new format: In 2021, the award will be presented for the first time to three artists at the same time, who will exhibit together: Maxwell Alexandre (Brazil), Conny Maier (Germany), and Zhang Xu Zhan (Taiwan) were selected on the recommendation of the Deutsche Bank Global Art Advisory Council, composed of the curators Hou Hanru, Udo Kittelmann, and Victoria Noorthoorn. While the three artistic positions are absolutely independent and unique, there are some similarities. They have all conquered the art world without a university education; they each look at the human condition from a very different, albeit non-academic perspective, and reflect on elementary, global issues: community, spirituality, our relationship to nature.

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.

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 and the online magazine Lodown, 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 and comic style 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.

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.

Exhibition at the PalaisPopulaire, Berlin
opening September 15, 2021

More on the "Artists of the Year"

Caline Aoun – "Artist of the Year" 2018


Caline Aoun is Deutsche Bank’s “Artist of the Year” 2018. In the fall of 2018, she will show her first large-scale institutional exhibition at Berlin’s newly opened forum for art, culture, and sports at Prinzessinnenpalais.


Kemang Wa Lehulere – "Artist of the Year" 2017


South African artist Kemang Wa Lehulere is Deutsche Bank's "Artist of the Year" 2017. He presented his first institutional solo exhibition in Germany at the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle in spring 2017. On display are installations, drawings, as well as a mural relief and a video, which are based on extensive research.

ArtMag: Bird Song: Kemang Wa Lehulere

Basim Magdy – "Artist of the Year" 2016


Basim Magdy (*1977 in Assiut, Egypt) is Deutsche Bank’s “Artist of the Year” 2016 and will present his first institutional solo exhibition at the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle in Berlin next spring. His multifaceted oeuvre includes film, photography, slide projections, installations, and works on paper.

ArtMag: Permanent Presence: Basim Magdy

Koki Tanaka – "Artist of the Year" 2015


With “A Vulnerable Narrator”, the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle presentend the first solo show by Koki Tanaka in Europe. The Japanese artist references the history of “art activism” and views his work as a gentle yet sustainable approach to this movement. The exhibition, consisting of video installations, large scale photographs and drawings, is a laboratory of sorts, one that ties together a decade’s worth of projects, ideas, and documents.

ArtMag: A Methodology for the Future – Koki Tanaka’s art activism

5 Years Deutsche Bank "Artist of the Year"


After Wangechi Mutu (2010), Yto Barrada (2011), Roman Ondák (2012), and Imran Qureshi (2013), Victor Man is Deutsche Bank's fifth "Artist of the Year." The award is given on the recommendation of the Deutsche Bank Global Art Advisory Council, which consists of the renowned curators Okwui Enwezor, Hou Hanru, Udo Kittelmann, and Victoria Noorthoorn. The focus is on artists who have already amassed a substantial oeuvre and have blazed new trails both formally and in terms of content.


Victor Man – "Artist of the Year" 2014


With their choice of the Romanian artist, Deutsche Bank has selected one of the most interesting protagonists in the contemporary art scene. Victor Man exhibited his seemingly mysterious works in spring 2014 at the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle in Berlin.

ArtMag: Dark Metamorphoses – Victor Man Is Artist of the Year 2014

Imran Qureshi – "Artist of the Year" 2013


Deutsche Bank has selected Imran Qureshi, one of the most important figures on the contemporary Pakistani art scene, as its 2013 "Artist of the Year." Based on a recommendation from the Deutsche Bank Global Art Advisory Council, which includes internationally renowned curators Okwui Enwezor, Hou Hanru, Udo Kittelmann, and Victoria Noorthoorn, the bank is proud to honour an auspicious artist who addresses social issues in an individual way.

ArtMag: Violence, Beauty, Hope: Imran Qureshi is Deutsche Bank's "Artist of the Year" 2013

Roman Ondák – "Artist of the Year" 2012


Nomination of Roman Ondák to the Deutsche Bank "artist of the year 2012" during Frieze/London. From April to June 2012 the Deutsche Guggenheim was presenting a solo exhibition with his works.

ArtMag: Grammar of the Everyday: Notes on Roman Ondák

Yto Barrada – "Artist of the Year" 2011


Taking the situation in her home city of Tangier as a point of departure, the Moroccan artist reflects on constantly changing boundaries in culture, economics, and politics and on their repercussions. Following the premiere at the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin, Barrada's solo show 'Riffs' will be on view at WIELS in Brussels from the end of September 2011.

ArtMag: Poetry and Politics: Yto Barrada at Fotomuseum Winterthur

Wangechi Mutu – "Artist of the Year" 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.

ArtMag: This Undreamt Descent: Wangechi Mutu in the Kunsthalle Baden-Baden

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Last Update: 11.3.2021
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