Igor Zabel Award for Culture and Theory

“He was the first person who talked about the former West instead of only the former East.”
(Charles Esche, member of the Igor Zabel Award jury 2008 and Director of the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven)

 

 


“The idea that art can serously change the world has become questionable, utopian or even impossible. Art is powerless when faced by concrete and urgent social issues, while it remains an effective part of the systems of power and dominance.” Igor Zabel

Context

Across Europe, countries have significantly been revising their budgets and the culture allocations seem to suffer mostly. Austria, Italy and Hungary, for example, have allocated less than 0.7% of their annual financial resources for culture.

While the heritage arts, usually displayed in museums, continue to get support, it is the contemporary artists, art historians or theorists who may have difficulties to get their work acknowledged. If they happen to come from Central or Eastern Europe, their chances for any funding further diminish. The lack of art production money, absence of gallery scenes, deficiency of art markets in Eastern European countries, coupled with still conservative approaches in education and shortage of jobs thereafter, pose a huge challenge.

Impact

For this reason, ERSTE Foundation established the biennial Igor Zabel Award for Culture and Theory in 2008. This Award supports the work of art historians and theorists in CEE and highlights the notion of arts and culture, encouraging the production of cultural knowledge and exchange between ‘East’ and ‘West’.

Igor Zabel (1958-2005), the name generator for this Award, was an influential Slovenian curator, art critic, writer and theorist, the main propagator of his country’s art scene during the 1990s. As the senior curator of Ljubljana’s Moderna galerija, he established cultural links between Eastern and Western Europe.
Igor Zabel was, by all means, a role model for new generations of curators and critics of contemporary art.

The laureates of this Award, just like Igor Zabel, have brought together specific fields of knowledge and culture, and pointed to the necessity of their omnipresence in human lives. And these are the ideas that the Igor Zabel Award for Culture and Theory cherishes.

Facts

The award is not by application. An international jury made up of one artist, one curator and one theorist appoints the laureate. One of the members is always from Slovenia. In addition to the award, three working grants are offered. The laureate gives one of these grants, while the jury decides the other two.

With total prize money of EUR 76,000 it is one of the highest and most prestigious prizes for cultural activities related to Central and South Eastern Europe.

Candidates can be all those who work on broadening international knowledge of Central and South Eastern European visual culture. The award emphasises the importance of theoretical and scientific engagement, therefore it addresses international curators, theorists, writers, critics who come from or live and/or work in Central and South Eastern Europe, whose work spans this geography, respectively.

 


 

Igor Zabel (1958 – 2005) was a Slovenian curator, writer and cultural theorist who, during his entire life, was 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 model for new generations of curators and critics of contemporary art.

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Igor Zabel (1958 – 2005) was a Slovenian curator, writer and cultural theorist who, during his entire life, was 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 model for new generations of curators and critics of contemporary art.



As a curator and writer, he tirelessly called for the profound exploration of those political, social and cultural undercurrents that had the potential to give us a better understanding of the post-communist world of today.


From 1984 to 1986, he worked as freelance writer, and, since 1986, as curator of Moderna galerija Ljubljana. In his work as curator, he organised numerous exhibitions at Moderna galerija Ljubljana, presenting artists from Slovenia and abroad. From 1998 to 2000, he was coordinator of Manifesta 3 in Ljubljana. In 2003, he curated the show ‘Individual Systems’ as part of the 50th International Art Exhibition at the Venice Biennale.


Zabel also published two books of essays on contemporary art and a number of essays and articles in catalogues and magazines. He was editor of the magazine of Moderna galerija Ljubljana ‘M’ars’ and co-editor of the journal of contemporary curatorship ‘MJ Manifesta Journal’.

Igor Zabel died suddenly, at the age of 47, following an accident.


Igor Zabel Association for Culture and Theory was founded in Igor’s hometown Ljubljana, in February 2008, by his wife Mateja Kos Zabel, his father Bojan Zabel and ERSTE Foundation. The Association seeks to highlight the importance and ongoing influence of Zabel’s work, to promote knowledge sharing and networking in contemporary visual arts and culturemore

Igor Zabel Association for Culture and Theory was founded in Igor’s hometown Ljubljana, in February 2008, by his wife Mateja Kos Zabel, his father Bojan Zabel and ERSTE Foundation. The Association seeks to highlight the importance and ongoing influence of Zabel’s work, to promote knowledge sharing and networking in contemporary visual arts and cultureas well as to encourage cultural dialogue in the Central and South Eastern European region and beyond. The Association also honours the extinguished individuals, in culture and theory, with the Award dedicated to the memory of Igor Zabel, every two years.


Igor Zabel Award for Culture and Theory winners

2012
2010

2008