Igor Zabel Award for Culture and Theory

One of the most prestigious cultural awards in Central and Eastern Europe

Did you know ?

Igor Zabel (1958–2005) was a Slovenian curator, writer and cultural theorist. Throughout his life he was actively involved in many fields of theory and culture. His texts on contemporary art in Slovenia and Eastern Europe are excellent observations of the close intertwining of art and society. Igor Zabel gained international fame with exhibitions of Slovenian art. The Moderna galerija in Ljubljana was the setting for his work as a curator from 1986. As a philosopher, author, translator, essayist, curator, literature critic and art critic he influenced a whole generation of European artists, thinkers and intellectuals. Igor Zabel analysed the role of art in post-socialism, getting to the heart of the complex relationship between East and West within the art world. His work provided an important foundation for understanding Europe’s new political geography after the fall of the Iron Curtain and its influence on art. While the West lacked a deeper understanding of Eastern European art, society in the East needed to develop a new artistic awareness and self-image. This difference is still noticeable to some extent – or is reappearing.

Igor Zabel. Photos with courtesy Igor Zabel Association for Culture and Theory

What can we do?

In 2007, two years after Igor Zabel’s sudden death, we founded an association together with his family to promote the ongoing importance of his work for art and cultural understanding between East and West. The Igor Zabel Association for Culture and Theory aims to keep Igor Zabel’s work in the public eye and to establish links to the present. His writings are gradually being catalogued and made available to the public in Ljubljana’s Moderna galerija library.

“An essential aspect of the East-West ‘conflict’ in relation to art is the fight for codification of the field and thus for its domination.”

Igor Zabel

Every two years, one of the region’s most valuable and prestigious prizes is awarded: the Igor Zabel Award for Culture and Theory. It honours outstanding work by curators, art historians and art theorists, writers and critics who deal with contemporary culture and art in Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe. The award is not by application. A three-member international jury selects the laureate and recipients of three grants based on proposals given by 10 nominators. The laureate receives EUR 40,000; the three working grants are endowed with EUR 12,000 each. The association also organises lectures and symposia.

Why are we doing this?

We are convinced that art fulfils a social mission and that every society needs a lively cultural environment. Art critically examines the developments in our societies. While there is a large number of awards for artists of the recent past and present across the globe, there are very few grants and awards for the theorists who critically examine the artists’ productions and make their work accessible to a wider international public. Igor Zabel went to great lengths to promote cultural relations between Eastern and Western Europe, unmasking the political myths of “East” and “West”. We would like to preserve his memory, for we will continue to need visionaries and intellectuals in the future: people who take a critical approach to politics and economics with the aim of promoting peace.


Winner: What, How & for Whom (WHW)
Grants: Fouad Asfour, Erden Kosova, Prelom Kolektiv
Jury: Eda Cufer, Josef Dabernig, Charles Esche

Winner: Piotr Piotrowski
Grants: Maja und Reuben Fowkes, The Peace Institute Ljubljana,
Raluca Voinea, Daniel Grún
Jury: Edit András, Chus Martínez, Tadej Pogačar

Winner: Suzana Milevska
Grants: Sabine Hänsgen, Klara Kemp-Welch, European Roma Cultural
Jury: Alenka Gregorič, Yuri Leiderman, Hanna Wróblewska

Winner: Ekaterina Degot
Grants: Karel Císař, Miklavž Komelj, Kirill Medwedew
Jury: Keti Chukhrov, Apolonija Šušteršic, Rainer Fuchs

Winner: Viktor Misiano
Grants: Viviana Checchia, Anca Verona Mihule, OFF-Biennale Budapest
Jury: Zdenka Badovinac, Vít Havránek, Roman Ondák

Winner: Joanna Mytkowska
Grants: Edith Jerábková, Oberliht Association, The Visual Culture Research Center
Jury: Adam Budak, Ana Janevski, Erzen Shkololli

Winner: Zdenka Badovinac
Grants: Slavcho Dimitrov, Katalin Erdődi, Ivana Bago
Jury: Šejla Kamerič, Antony Gardner, Franciska Zólyom

Winner: Bojana Pejić
Grants: Oksana Briukhovetska,  Alina Șerban, Antonina Stebur

Jury: Marta Dziewańska, Ahmet Öğüt, Tomáš Pospiszyl

Igor Zabel Award For Culture And Theory


The Curators Room: Igor Zabel - How to make art visible?

The Curator’s Room, a documentary film dedicated to the art historian and curator Igor Zabel (1958–2005), focuses on Zabel’s work in the field of visual arts from the end of the 1980s to his death. Through the film, we learn how, in that epochal time – at the turn of the century and at the intersections of (post)modern and contemporary art, the local and international art space, socialism and capitalism, East and West, the artistic and the social/political –, he faced in his work not only great changes and conflicts, but also possibilities for the new.

The film The Curator’s Room portrays not only a man who, despite the internal contradictions of the art world, persistently believed in the power of art, but also the time and space in which Igor Zabel worked and which he co-shaped.

The documentary tells of his concept of the curator’s role, his key exhibition projects and their backgrounds, his interventions into Slovenian art history, his literary works and the texts with which he importantly co-created the reflection on the relation between the (former) East and West as it was manifested in the field of art after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Director: Damjan Kozole | Scriptwriter: Urška Jurman | Photography: Matjaž Mrak | Editor: Jurij Moškon | Producer: Danijel Hočevar | Production and distribution: Vertigo | Co-production: RTV Slovenia, Igor Zabel Association for Culture and Theory | Supported by: Slovenian Film Centre

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A network of autonomous initiatives in contemporary art