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The Contemporary Austin Announces Tarek Atoui as Winner of $200,000 Art Prize

Tarek Atoui © Matteo Bellomo Fabrica

Atoui will receive an unrestricted cash award, along with production expenses for a solo exhibition premiering at The Contemporary Austin, Texas, and traveling to The FLAG Art Foundation, New York, and an accompanying exhibition catalog.

The Contemporary Austin has announced that Tarek Atoui (born 1980 in Beirut, Lebanon; lives and works in Paris, France) is the winner of the 2022 Suzanne Deal Booth / FLAG Art Foundation Prize. In addition to receiving a $200,000 cash award, Atoui will present a solo exhibition premiering in Austin in spring 2022 at The Contemporary’s downtown venue, the Jones Center on Congress Avenue. The exhibition will then travel to The FLAG Art Foundation in New York, where it will open in fall 2022. In addition to the exhibition and monetary award, the prize includes a scholarly exhibition catalog and public programming around the exhibitions at both venues.

As an artist and composer, collaboration and community building are at the center of Atoui’s practice. Eschewing sole authorship, the artist brings together local communities through collaborations with musicians, composers, designers, and instrument makers, resulting in dynamic and evocative installations and live performances. For example, in the ongoing research project WITHIN, which the artist began in 2012, Atoui involved members of the deaf community alongside musicians and designers to create new instruments that explore alternative manifestations of sound through vision, touch, and gesture, highlighting the medium’s expansive and universal potential.
“We are thrilled with the Advisory Committee’s selection of Tarek Atoui,” said Heather Pesanti, Chief Curator & Director of Curatorial Affairs at The Contemporary Austin. “In such unprecedented times the museum is grateful to have the opportunity to support Atoui and his collaborators as they continue to create different ways of experiencing art and sound to several communities. His sensitivity to place through research and collaboration are perfect for our times. Given Austin’s rich live music community, we look forward to the partnerships with musicians and other creative individuals and organizations throughout the city that might be catalyzed through this exhibition.”

“In these times of social distancing and impossibility of coming together, this award is an homage to collaboration, performativity, improvisation, and composition,” said Atoui. “It is celebrating the role of art in bringing people together, and I’m honored to be its recipient.”

Atoui was selected by an independent advisory committee comprising renowned curators and art historians from the U.S. and Great Britain. Led by Heather Pesanti, Chief Curator & Director of Curatorial Affairs at The Contemporary Austin, this year’s Advisory Committee included Darby English, Carl Darling Buck Professor, Department of Art History, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL; Michael Govan, CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA; Ingrid Schaffner, Curator, The Chinati Foundation, Marfa, TX; and Catherine Wood, Senior Curator, International Art (Performance), Tate Modern, London, UK; along with institutional advisor Stephanie Roach, Director of The FLAG Art Foundation, New York.

“In a cultural moment when togetherness is being entirely reimagined,” says Stephanie Roach, Director of The FLAG Art Foundation, “it’s heartening to help develop Atoui’ s vision and expand how The Contemporary and FLAG realize exhibitions, engage local and global collaborators, and encourage inclusivity; his emphasis on cross-disciplinarity and generosity is more urgent than ever before.”

Tarek Atoui is an artist and composer based in Paris, France who explores the medium of sound through dynamic installations and live performances. Drawing from methods of ethnomusicology, the artist grounds his work in multidisciplinary and collaborative research—historical, social, material, perceptual, and environmental—creating unexpected, evocative, and open-ended projects. Born in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1980, Atoui moved to France in 1998, where he studied economics and electroacoustic music. Working together with instrument makers and sound engineers, he co-creates experimental instruments and sound assemblages, ranging from reinterpretations of ancient instruments to electronic and computer-based ones. These handmade objects simultaneously possess compelling beauty as abstract sculptural objects and function as musical instruments activated through performance.

Atoui has presented his work internationally at the New Museum, New York (2009 and 2010); Sharjah Biennial in the United Arab Emirates (2009 and 2013); dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel, Germany (2012); 8th Berlin Biennale (2014); Tate Modern, London (2016); NTU Centre for Contemporary Art, Singapore (2017); Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow (2018); 58th Venice Biennale, Italy (2019); and Okayama Art Summit, Japan (2019). He was co-artistic director of STEIM (Studio for Electro-Instrumental Music) in Amsterdam in 2007, and of the Bergen Assembly in Norway in 2016. The 2022 Suzanne Deal Booth / FLAG Art Foundation Prize exhibitions will be the artist’s first solo museum exhibitions in Texas and in New York.

This fall, Tarek Atoui: Cycles in 11 opens at the Sharjah Art Foundation in the United Arab Emirates. The culmination of an eleven-year project at the Foundation, the exhibition challenges established ways of listening through innovative approaches to sound and draws on the artist’s ongoing investigations of how deafness can influence the way sound performance, space and instrumentation are understood. In October he will open an exhibition at the Fridericianum in Kassel, Germany, centered around his ongoing project I/E about harbors and harbor cities. In February 2021, the artist will participate in the 13th Gwangju Biennale in South Korea. He recently explored the history and traditional practices of the region through visits with local Gwangju artists and professionals, including ceramists, instrument makers, musicians, and paper makers, which will inform his collaborative work.

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