PRESS RELEASE 2010-05-05

Piotr Piotrowski, Director of the National Museum in Warsaw, honoured as outstanding art historian of the Central Eastern European region

Art historian Piotr Piotrowski from Poland is the recipient of this year’s Igor Zabel Award for Culture and Theory. Initiated and funded by ERSTE Foundation, the award recognises outstanding cultural activities related to the Central and South Eastern European region. Additionally to the award four working grants will be given to the Croatian-British writers and curators Maja and Reuben Fowkes, to the interdisciplinary Peace Institute from Ljubljana, to the Romanian curator Raluca Voinea and the Bratislava based art historian Daniel Grúň. The award ceremony will be held in Barcelona between 9 and 12 December 2010 accompanied by a conference on Writing Art History at the Museum of Contemporary of Art (MACBA).

Piotr Piotrowski, Director of the National Museum in Warsaw, honoured as outstanding art historian of the Central Eastern European region

The Igor Zabel Award for Culture and Theory acknowledges the work of a cultural protagonist whose work is dedicated to internationally broaden the knowledge of visual culture in the Central and South Eastern European region. The laureate is selected by an international jury. The jury was appointed by ERSTE Foundation and in 2010 consists of the following members: Edit András, art historian (Hungary/USA), Chus Martínez, curator (Spain), Tadej Pogacar, artist (Slovenia). Candidates for the award are international curators, theorists, writers, critics who are coming from or living and/or working in the region, whose work spans Central and South Eastern Europe respectively. In 2010 in addition to the award of EUR 40,000 four working grants were awarded, three by the jury, one by the laureate.

Igor Zabel Award for Culture and Theory – Winner 2010 (EUR 40,000):

Piotr Piotrowski is honored with the Igor Zabel Award for his art history writing in Eastern Europe, which is hardly visible in the canonised, so-called universal art history. Piotrowski is Professor ordinarius at the Institute of Art History, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan (Poland). Since August 2009 he is also the Director of the National Museum in Warsaw. The jury expressed its appreciation and support for his work and acknowledges “one of the most outstanding art historians of the Central Eastern European region, who has exceptional professional achievements”. Piotr Piotrowski has a significant body of writings focusing on transnational modern and contemporary art. His main goal is to subvert traditional geography of art that functions as a tool of subordination, and to offer the marginal position as an analytic advantage based on his conviction that “the margin can reveal elements that are invisible from the centre”. He is active in setting up a network, as well as disseminating the specific art practices and ideas that originate in the region, outside of the centres. By doing so, Piotr Piotrowski acts as a sort of cultural ambassador.
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Igor Zabel Award for Culture and Theory – Grants 2010 (EUR 8,000 each):

In 2010 the jury decided to award three working grants instead of two, because among “the strongest nominees were single individuals, communities, and collectives. They pursue very different activities, work in very different terrains (…) and we wanted to honor the best ones from each category.“

Maja and Reuben Fowkes, of Croatian and British origin respectively, are partners in private and professional life. They live and work in Budapest, Hungary. Their activity has become a stimulating and important force in the Central Eastern European region. They are involved in a number of different activities as initiators and participants, in curating (1956: Revolution is not a Garden Party, 2006; 1968: Revolution I love You, 2008; 1989: Revolutionary Decadence, 2009; etc.), writing, editing accompanying publications, organizing conferences. The Social East Seminar, a conference series held in different cities and venues has evolved an alternative institution in the course of the last couple of years. They bring back issues and topics which seem to have disappeared from the scenes of the ex East bloc, such as political and subversive practices, the heritage of revolutionary and utopian thinking, the memory discourse and sustainability.
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The Peace Institute is a non-profit research institution developing interdisciplinary research activities in sociology, anthropology, philosophy, cultural policy and political science based in Ljubljana/Slovenia. It was founded in 1991 by a group of independent intellectuals who had been civil society activists in the post-socialist processes in Slovenia and Yugoslavia. Especially in the field of education the Peace Institute’s project The Workers’ Punk University offers new possibilities for alternative (self)-education that is based on new forms of solidarity, inclusive politics and free thinking. The jury stress that Peace Institute in last twenty years did extremely important contribution to critical research of social, cultural and political transitional processes and was deeply dedicated in dealing with marginalised social and political themes, linking them to educational practice.
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Raluca Voinea is a young scholar and curator based in Romania. She is especially interested in researching how contemporary art practice and artistic research enhances our common understanding of the social. Her interest in writing, her attentiveness to history, exhibition history in particular, makes her research relevant since it helps to connect fields and also different generations that experience history, time and even the very understanding of art in totally different forms. Her research has the quality of opening up, sharing, including, expanding not only the questions, the references, but also the concepts we inherited to address certain practices, to talk and to write about art. 

Igor Zabel Award for Culture and Theory – Grant 2010 (EUR 12,000):

One working grant is traditionally dedicated by the laureate. Piotr Piotrowski awarded Daniel Grúň with this working grant. 

Daniel Grúň is an art historian, curator, writer and art critic. He studied art history at Trnava University (Slovak Republic) and later received a Visegrad Scholarship at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan and Charles University in Prague. In 2009 he completed his PhD thesis and published it as a book titled Archeology of Art Criticism. Slovak Art of the 1960s and its Interpretations, dealing with artistic discourse in Czechoslovakia during the democratisation process of the socialist regime. Currently he works as an Assistant Professor at the Department of Theory and History of Art, Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava, Slovak Republic. 

The Igor Zabel Award for Culture and Theory was granted for the first time in 2008 to the Croatian curatorial collective What, How & for Whom (WHW). Besides the award Fouad Asfour, Erden Kosova and the Serbian collective Prelom were awarded with a working grant. 


Igor Zabel Association for Culture and Theory: Dunja Kukovec
Jamnikarjeva 16, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia

ERSTE Foundation, Communications: Maribel Königer, Jovana Trifunovic
Tel. +43 50100 15105

The Igor Zabel Association for Culture and Theory
Igor Zabel (1958 – 2005) was a Slovenian curator, writer and cultural theorist, all his life actively involved in many fields of theory and culture: as a philosopher, author, essayist, modern and contemporary art curator, literary and art critic, translator, and teacher of new generations of curators and critics of contemporary art. The Igor Zabel Association for Culture and Theory was founded in February 2008 by Mateja Kos Zabel, Bojan Zabel and ERSTE Foundation. The association’s objective is not only to work with Igor Zabel’s heritage and highlight the importance and ongoing influence of his work, but also to promote theory and contemporary curatorial practices in order to enhance the knowledge exchange and networking in visual arts and culture in the Central and South Eastern European region and beyond. For 2010 the association has planned to publish the English translation of the most relevant texts of Igor Zabel in a comprehensive book. Further an international symposium is scheduled for October 2010 to be held in Museum of Modern Art Ljubljana. 

ERSTE Foundation
ERSTE Foundation is active in the Central and South Eastern European region. Together with its partners, it creates a hive of activity for common good. Founded in 2003 it began its work two years later by developing its three programmes Social Development, Culture and Europe. ERSTE Foundation is the legal successor of the 190-year-old “Erste oesterreichische Spar-Casse”, the first Austrian savings bank. Its two commitments are based on these historical roots: as the major shareholder ERSTE Foundation safeguards the future of Erste Group as an independent company and invests its dividend to support the common good. This makes ERSTE Foundation a unique institution of this kind and size in Central and South Eastern Europe.