BelgianArtPrize cancelled after artists pull out


The biennial BelgianArtPrize has been in upheaval this week, as criticism was levied at the jury for choosing all male finalists

Jury stands by choice

The BelgianArtPrize 2019 has been cancelled after the shortlisted artists all pulled out of the competition. The artists were reacting to criticisms in the media that the all-male selection was unacceptable in the current climate.

The BelgianArtPrize is awarded every two years by the non-profit organisation De Jonge Belgische Schilderkunst. Its aim is to stimulate talented artists living and working in Belgium, to contribute to the development of their careers and raise their international visibility.

Sven Augustijnen, Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys, Koenraad Dedobbeleer and Gabriel Kuri (pictured) announced earlier this week that they were collectively withdrawing from the competition. “The all too rapid shift of public attention from artistic discourse or content – let alone merit  – towards white male privilege is frankly something that we regret,” they wrote in a statement.

This left them no choice but to pull out, they said. “Far from disengaging from the questions and problems that have arisen, we are withdrawing in order that the debate can go on without having to undermine the art, and that the prize may be reassessed.”

Prize to skip an edition

Originally established in 1950 as the Young Belgian Art Prize, the competition was revamped in 2016 to remove age restrictions and open up the competition to international artists working in Belgium. The first winner of the new format was neither pale nor male: Antwerp-based Nigerian artist Otobong Nkanga.

De Jonge Belgische Schilderkunst responded to the artists’ decision yesterday by saying that the 2019 prize would be not now be awarded. An alternative artistic project will be proposed in its place.

Meanwhile, the jury insisted that it stood by its choice, which was made on the basis of art alone. No quotas were set for gender, nationality, language or other non-artistic qualities.

The organisers also pointed out that an initial shortlist contained three male and one female artist, but the unnamed woman artist declined to be part of the competition.

Photo: Mexican expat Gabriel Kuri, one of the finalists who pulled out of the BelgianArtPrize
©Ciac Art Videos/YouTube