On May 6, in the wonderful setting of the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice, on the occasion of the exhibition dedicated to Mario Merz, Città Irreale, the winners of the first edition of the Mario Merz Prize have been announced.

The winners were chosen by the public and two Juries whose members were: Manuel Borja-Villel (Director Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid), Lawrence Weiner (artist), Massimiliano Gioni (Head Curator New Museum, New York – Artistic Director Fondazione Trussardi, Milan) and Beatrice Merz for the Art Section; Thomas Demenga (cellist and composer), Dieter Ammann (composer), Alexander Lonquich (pianist) and Willy Merz for the Music Section.

Jurors were satisfied with the high quality of the works presented by the finalists — artists Lida Abdul, Glenn Ligon, Naeem Mohaiemen, Anri Sala, and Wael Shawky and musicians Paolo Boggio, Arturo Corrales, Vassos Nicolaou, Cyrill Schürch, and Vito Žuraj — and have pointed out their difficulties in selecting the winners.

Following a careful study of the works presented in Turin, after evaluating each finalist’s artistic path and acknowledging the public’s vote—which was casted online or by filling out the cards distributed both at the Fondazione Merz and Biblioteca Civica “Andrea Della Corte”— the Judging Panels have expressed their votes and declared the Prize winners: Egyptian artist Wael Shawky and Swiss composer Cyrill Schürch.

The Jury of the Art Section explained its choice as follows:
“On account of the excellent overall presentation given by the 5 finalists, in terms of quality, deep conceptual approach and precision of the medium used, we have found Wael Shawky’s artistic path to best meet the scope of this project.
His piece consists in fact of a work that combines a thematic richness, the ability to mix together even thorny issues and depictions, the use of film as language, and a surprisingly innovative and contemporary storytelling technique.
Through his recited poetic script, the stage setting, his reflection upon tradition, the choice of not taking up a Western way but actually staying in Egypt to recount the great history of the Arabian world and the Middle East, Shawky proves to be an artist with a wealth of inspiration. In showing the contradictions that emerge from the dialogue between distant cultures and religious faiths, his research relies more on the language of art than on the historical relevance of the events he recounts.
In this respect, Wael Shawky’s work best represents a generation’s specific point of view which we have decided to reward, offering him the chance to present a new project in a solo exhibition.”

The Jury of the Music Section explained its choice as follows:
“For the extreme lyrical sensibility, the effectiveness of the instrumental writing and its wise balance between innovation and awareness of tradition, the Jury awards the Prize to Cyrill Schürch.

The winning artist will be awarded with a solo exhibition at the Fondazione Merz in Torino and will receive support to create a new project. The exhibition—to be accompanied by an extensive monograph — will subsequently travel to Switzerland as part of the new exhibition project “Nomade” by the recently established Merz Foundation Switzerland.

The winning composer will be commissioned a composition for string quartet—to be performed both in Turin and Switzerland within a programme of contemporary music and traditional repertoire — and a music piece for a gallery space, ultimately liaising the two different art forms.