The Guggenheim Museum announced Deana Lawson as the 2020 recipient of the prestigious Hugo Boss Prize, making her the first photographer to take home the honor. The artist will receive an honorarium of $100,000 and a solo exhibition, currently slated for spring 2021, at the Guggenheim.
Known for her carefully staged and intimate photographs, the jury described Lawson as “an artist who offers compelling new modes of seeing and imagining.”
“Lawson brilliantly negotiates the legacies of vernacular, documentary and conceptual photography to create indelible tableaux of Black colloquial life,” the jury said in a joint statement. “While appearing to be images of actual families, friends and lovers, her large-format works are in fact highly staged, cast and choreographed, grounding their subjects in aesthetically rich material environments even as they gesture toward an ethereal elsewhere — a deft, remarkable feat.”
Nairy Baghramian, Kevin Beasley, Elias Sime, Cecilia Vicuña and Adrián Villar Rojas were among the artists on the prize’s shortlist and will each receive a $10,000 honorarium in light of the ongoing strain placed on artists due to the COVID-19 health crisis.
In a video accompanying the announcement, Lawson thanked the individuals and families she has collaborated with over the years for their “generosity and trust.” She also recognized the institutions, galleries, curators, collectors, writers and artists who have helped her “forge ahead to strive higher and dig deeper into the power, danger and celebratory nature of photographs.”
“As we are all aware, 2020 has been a trying year on so many fronts,” she continued. “It is during this moment that I feel the most call to continue the work of image-making, understanding that photographs have immense power, and reimaging new thresholds for evolution and liberation.”
Top Image: Deana Lawson, "Mama Goma, Gemena," DR Congo, 2014. Pigment print. © Deana Lawson, courtesy of Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York; and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles.