Paweł Althamer - KAIROS Prize winner 2013
Paweł Althamer, who was born in Warsaw in 1967, studied sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. He started out with sculptures for which he used natural materials, such as grass, wax or hair, materials that start to rot away after a while and thus emphasise the transitory nature of art. Since the 1990s, Paweł Althamer has been pursuing a special form of participatory art production. Such projects have not only given rise to characteristic works of art but have also led to unique experiences for those involved.
In 2011, for example, during the Almech exhibition at Deutsche Guggenheim, he arranged for portraits to be made of visitors and guides, cleaning and security staff, bank managers and their customers, creating a monumental, collective self-portrait. The people who were portrayed discovered the possibility of active involvement and intervention; they saw themselves in the sculptures, giving their visit to the exhibition, otherwise usually an anonymous experience, a very personal face.
In other performances, Paweł Althamer has worked with homeless people, convicts or patients, drawing them out of their isolated social role and thus empowering them to become artistic players. For almost twenty years, for example, he has headed the Nowolipie Group, a weekly sculpture workshop for patients suffering from multiple sclerosis. Althamer’s work is also shaped by the strategy of social sculpture, a characteristic feature of European art. At the turn of the millennium, he planned the collective sculpture Bródno together with his neighbours in the apartment block by that name. He persuaded 200 tenants to switch their lights on and off in a certain sequence, so that at midnight, the number 2000 became visible on the outer façade. This simple idea compellingly linked art and life, because it not only provided a visual message for the spectator, but also strengthened the sense of community among the tenants. In 2009, he relinquished his own role as an artist when he handed over his exhibition at the Museum Fridericianum to the school children of the city of Kassel.
“Paweł Althamer answers socio-political questions about participation, justice and individual scope for action using artistic strategies that undermine familiar structures and rules. The way we live, the way we work, the values that are important to us – his installations, performances and activities make us aware of these things, in surprising ways. He directs our attention towards things that appear self-evident or that we have repressed, and thus blends aesthetic sophistication with social sensitivity to produce a very distinctive artistic oeuvre that leaves its mark”, as the KAIROS prize jury explains its decision to bestow the award on him.
The KAIROS Prize was awarded to Paweł Althamer on 24 February 2013 at the Deutsches Schauspielhaus in Hamburg.
Since its establishment the foundation has awarded various cultural prizes of different endowment throughout Europe. Reflecting the changing social, political and cultural conditions of contemporary Europe, most of the previous awards were discontinued in favour of one newly conceived and at the same time higher endowed prize.
The KAIROS Prize is honouring European artists and academics from the fields of the fine and the performing arts, music, architecture, design, film, photography, literature and journalism. The award is designed to be given above all to individuals for artistic achievements, but also to producers, festival directors, publishers or gallery owners whose activities take place outside of the public limelight – in short, to creative personalities who give important impulses to art and culture in Europe.
The KAIROS Prize is endowed with the amount of 75.000 € and aims to honour outstanding individuals working with entrepreneurial spirit, persistence and creativity in the field of European culture and intercultural understanding. The prize is named after the Greek god KAIROS – the god for "the right moment" – as it seeks to encourage and promote artists, curators, managers in the field of culture or science at "the right time in their career". It is neither an award for life time achievement nor a singular project, but rather seeks to identify early achievement, special work in progress as well as potential for future sucess.
The KAIROS Prize is awarded annually in Hamburg by the Alfred Toepfer Stiftung F.V.S. An independent committee decides on the awarding.
Committee of the KAIROS Prize
Christoph Stölzl, (chairman) president of the Liszt School of Music Weimar
Christine Eichel, author and journalist
Heike Catherina Mertens, director cultural department of Schering Foundation
Nike Wagner, art director of the Weimar Arts Festival “pčlerinages”
Armin Conrad, editor-in-chief at 3sat kulturzeit
Rainer M. Schaper, culture department of Swiss radio and television