Fifth Prix Pictet Award May 2014

On Wednesday evening we went along to see who got awarded the fifth Prix Pictet Award at a ceremony and exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

There were eleven artists who had been shortlisted for the award – including Adam Bartos, Motoyuki Daifu, Rineke Dijkstra, Hong Hao, Mishka Henner, Juan Fernando Herran, Abraham Oghobase, Allan Sekula, Boris Mikhailov, Michael Schmidt, and Laurie Simmons.

© Rineke Dijkstra, installation shot from the series Almerisa

The above series by Rineke Dijkstra, Almerisa documents the transition in a girl’s life, not only showing her adjustment to a new culture, but also the way she tries to find herself by experimenting with her outward appearance. Dijkstra met the subject of what has become her longest running series to date while making portraits at a refugee centre in Leiden, The Netherlands. Five years old at the time, Almerisa arrived with her family from Bosnia just two weeks earlier. Dijkstra perpared a small, bare studio with a chair in the corner of the room where the girl was staying. The series sees the subject through from a child to a mother holding her own child on her lap, sitting confidently, thus starting the cycle of life all over again.

The winner of the fifth Prix Pictet is Michael Schmidt. Schmidt was chosen for his monumental work Lebensmittel (food stuff) made between 2006 and 2010.

© Michael Schmidt, Installation shot from the series Lebensmittel

Michael Schmidt was awarded the prize of 100,000 Swiss Francs (USD$112,500, GBP£66,800, EUR€82,000), sponsored by Swiss wealth and asset managers, the Pictet Group.

Unlike some of Schmidt’s earlier series, his Lebensmittel photographs do not strike an attitude of rage or accusation. On the contrary, his way of looking at things is characterised by extreme lucidity and rigour. His view of bread baskets, cages in fish farms or apple-washin plants has a serial analytical quality that is sometimes reminiscent of the objective photographers, who stage their industrial motifs in a perfect aesthetic, and Schmidt;s realistic view makes a distressing impression when looking at the project as a whole: individual images demand objective consideration, while the series persistently undermines the apparently dominant objectivity through its composition of repetitions, accentuations and rhythms and the many links between the photographs. (Prix Pictet catalogue)

Director of the Tate Modern, Chris Dercon, accepted the award on behalf of Schmidt who was unfortunately unable to be at the ceremony due to serious illness. Ahead of the award announcement Kofi Annan said, ‘the shortlisted artists have made powerful images that ought to persuade governments, businesses – and each of us as individual consumers – of the need for a fundamental rethink of the principles on which present-day affluence is founded. The issue of unsustainable consumption, and in particular food and nutrition security, is not simply at the forefront of the global political stage, it is now firmly on the personal agenda of each and every one of us.’

Speaking on behalf of the Jury, Sir David King, Chair of the Judges, said, ‘we were privileged to review work by eleven truly outstanding photographers. There were many potential winners but, after much debate, we finally agreed to award the Prix Pictet to Michael Schmidt whose Lebensmittel is an epic and hugely topical investigation into the ways in which we feed ourselves.’

The exhibition of shortlisted artists for the Prix Pictet Award 2014 is on display at the V&A until 14 June