A partnership between the Art Gallery of New South Wales and La Prairie, The La Prairie Art Award aims to support Australian women artist's through the acquisition of new work and the further development of their artistic practice.
ABOUT THE AWARD
The La Prairie Art Award helps strengthen La Prairie’s ongoing commitment to the arts, with a particular focus on championing female artists. The La Prairie Art Award is delighted to acquire the artist’s work for the Art Gallery collection and offers the Award recipient an international residency. As part of the award the recipient will travel to Zurich, Switzerland, and attend the Art Basel international art fair and an exhibition of the Piet Mondrian exhibition at Fondation Beyeler as VIP guest of La Prairie. The recidency allows artists the opportunity to be inspired and further their practice within Europe.
ABOUT THE RECIPIENT
The inaugural recipient of the La Prairie Art Award is Melbourne-based artist Atong Atem for her work, A yellow dress, a bouquet 2022.
Atong Atem (1991) is an Ethiopian-born, South Sudanese artist and writer who works mainly with photography. She often uses portraiture to explore migrant stories and postcolonial histories of the African diaspora. Atem explores concepts of home and identity through a critical and sentimental lens and references the works of photographers Malick Sidibé and Seydou Keïta and science fiction writers such as Octavia Butler as tools for navigating liminal spaces. Atem has exhibited her work across Australia, including at the National Gallery of Victoria, NUMA Monash, Gertrude Contemporary, Australian Center for Contemporary Art and Internationally at Red Hook Labs in New York, Vogue.
ABOUT THE ARTWORK
For the La Prairie Art Award 2022, Atem extends her ongoing preoccupation with self-portraiture and the history of mid-20th century African studio photography, including the work of Malick Sidibé and Seydou Keïta. These photographers pushed against the pictorial codes of ethnographic photography and gave agency to their subjects.
A yellow dress, a bouquet 2022 is a sequential self-portrait in which Atem alludes to classical Western painting traditions through her postures and the symmetry of the group. Yet Atem also maintains what she refers to as a “decidedly African, postcolonial aesthetic style” through her emphatic use of colour and texture.
The hyper-stylised costumes and make-up draw attention to the staging of the studio scene, but such ornamentation also carries political weight.
Photo credits: A yellow dress, a bouquet 2022 Art Gallery of New South Wales, La Prairie Art Award 2022 © Atong Atem courtesy of MARS Gallery