Arts / Museums

The New Nasher Prize Winner for Sculpture Humanizes the Art Form With Empathy

Meet the Recipient of the Esteemed Art World Award, Nairy Baghramian

BY // 10.06.21

One of the most respected accolades in the art world, the Nasher Prize has named its sixth-ever laureate, who will receive $100,000 and an award designed by Renzo Piano, the architect behind Dallas’ renowned Nasher Sculpture Center. An Iranian-born artist living and working in Berlin, Germany since 1984, Nairy Baghramian isn’t afraid to upend the traditions of sculpture, the art form she feels her ideas are most effortlessly expressed through. “It’s the language I speak the best,” Baghramian explains in beautiful English during the filmed reveal of the Nasher Prize.

If sculpture is the vernacular, the artist’s vocabulary is always mindful of history, materials, and the idea of the body’s vulnerability. One of Baghramian’s recent works, Knee and Elbow, is an abstract sculpture depicting the two primary joints it’s named for. Featuring pitted pink and white marble connected by thin, stainless steel pieces and looking nearly on the verge of collapse, the piece highlights the fragility of the human form.

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Nairy Baghramian’s Knee and Elbow, 2020. (photo by Thomas Clark)

Another theme of Baghramian’s work is using sculptures to explore the relationship between architecture, objects, and the body, while championing often-overlooked subjects. One of her most recent works, Misfits, exhibited in Milan and Paris this summer, is a tribute to the awkwardness and limitations of play. Featuring sculptures that resemble children’s assembly-building toys, Baghramian’s works look as though they would fit together, but do not. The “toys” themselves are misfits, as are those who — within the confines of their educational and social constructs — fail to meet expectations. Baghramian argues that they the way we handle the dysfunctional should be with appreciation, not frustration.

Nairy Baghramian’s Dwindlers, 2018, at the Marian Goodman Gallery in Paris. (photo by Rebecca Fanuele)

The Nasher’s choice of Baghramian continues the museum’s mission to encourage thoughtful dialogue around contemporary sculpture on a global scale — the artist joins a lineup of artists from Europe, South America, and Chicago-based Michael Rakowitz, the previous winner of the Nasher Prize. The 2022 Nasher Prize jury itself is comprised of architects, curators, and professors from London, Tokyo, Rome, and beyond. Given the constraints of 2021, the group deliberated virtually this June, and was drawn to Baghramian’s humanization of the largely mechanical process of sculpture.

Baghramian will fly to Dallas and be honored during an award ceremony at The Nasher Sculpture Center on April 2, 2022. For a peek inside this Nasher Prize winner’s sculpture practice, scroll through the slideshow above.

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