It was in 1996 that collectors Florence and Daniel Guerlain created their contemporary art foundation at Mesnuls, southwest of Paris, which staged thematic exhibitions and organised engraving workshops. In 2004, their interests changed and their support was redirected to promoting contemporary drawing. In 2006 they established a prize that was awarded for the first time the following year. The biggest prize awarded for contemporary drawing, this year it celebrated its tenth anniversary. The prize has helped to bring attention to artists of the first rank, often very early in their careers and with very little real visibility in France. The shortlist ranges internationally and does not neglect non-Western artists. Thanks to its quality, and thanks to the generosity of Florence and Daniel Guerlain, the works of several of the winning artists, hitherto absent from the national collections, have been acquired by the Centre Pompidou.
Jonas Storsve - Why did you create the drawing prize?
Daniel and Florence Guerlain - We love drawing, and we collect it, and we were wondering what would be the best way of sharing our enthusiasm with the wider public. We created the prize, which was at first biennial, and then from 2009 we made it annual affair. Drawing stands at the heart of creation, whether in the visual arts, architecture or design. Everything starts with drawing! It’s the most spontaneous of acts, and for us the most true: a first gesture that reveals the intention, the personality of the artist. It seemed to us an obvious idea, to establish a drawing prize, the only one of its kind, and to help win for the medium the recognition it deserves on the international plane. Thanks to the prize, we’ve met Americans, Dutch, Belgians, Portuguese, English, Germans, Swiss, Italians who collect works on paper with the same passion as we do, and who have this same idea of sharing it.
JS - How is it awarded?
DFG - A committee of six, made up of collectors and specialists in works on paper draws up a shortlist of French artists and foreign artists with some institutional connection to France, on the basis of dossiers that they gather. The committee members meet the artists, visit their studios, and then discuss among themselves to establish a shortlist of three artists whose work is then submitted to a jury of nine private collectors from France and abroad. The jury meets in the course of the Salon de Dessin that takes place at the Palais Brongniart, in Paris. They listen to the artists talk about their work, and then they vote. The winner receives 15,000 euros, and the two other shortlisted artists 5,000 euros each. A work by the winner is presented by the Foundation to the Department of Prints and Drawings of the Musée National d’Art Moderne at the Centre Pompidou.
Interview by Jonas Storsve, Curator of Prints and Drawings, Musée National d’Art Moderne
Curator : Mnam/Cci, Jonas Storsve