Melbourne-based artist Atong Atem wins inaugural La Prairie Art Award

By MiNDFOOD

Atong Atem  
'A yellow dress, a bouquet 1'  2022 
Art Gallery of New South Wales, La Prairie Art Award 2022 
© Atong Atem
Atong Atem 'A yellow dress, a bouquet 1' 2022 Art Gallery of New South Wales, La Prairie Art Award 2022 © Atong Atem
A South Sudanese photographer based in Melbourne is the first recipient of the prestigious art award which aims to champion women artists in Australia.

The inaugural La Prairie Art Award has gone to Melbourne-based artist Atong Atem, whose striking photography work explores the African diaspora through migrant stories and post-colonial histories.

Presented by the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney and Swiss luxury skincare house La Prairie, the award aims to support the artist’s practice and raise their international profile. The artist’s work will also be acquired by the Art Gallery for its collection.

La Prairie Art Award 2022 recipient Atong Atem pictured at home in Brunswick, Victoria. Photo: Kristoffer Paulsen

Atem, a South Sudanese artist born in Ethiopia and now living in Melbourne, says she is enormously proud to win the award. “I am thrilled to have this major work acquired by the Art Gallery and I would like to thank La Prairie for the opportunity to create new avenues for my career internationally.”

Her work, titled A yellow dress, a bouquet 2022 features Atem’s brightly-painted face in a series of five photographs in a “decidedly African, postcolonial aesthetic style”. Through colour and texture, Atem explores this style alongside tropes of western painting traditions. Atem was chosen by the Art Gallery of NSW and La Prairie’s global board of directors for her originality and “ambitiously crafted and vibrant photographic portraits that celebrate their subjects.”

Atong Atem ‘A yellow dress, a bouquet 1-5’ 2022 Art Gallery of New South Wales, La Prairie Art Award 2022 © Atong Atem

In addition to receiving an international artist residency, Atem will travel to Zurich, Switzerland and attend the Art Basel international art fair as a VIP guest of La Prairie.

The Swiss luxury skincare house has long been known for its deep commitment to the arts and championing women artists. In addition to the La Prairie Art Award, the skincare house has been a major sponsor of the Art Basel Hong Kong and Miami since 2017, as well as art fairs in FIAC Paris, Frieze New York and London and West Bund in Shanghai.

“The La Prairie Art Award is the first art initiative of its kind for La Prairie in Australia. As a brand deeply engaged in art and culture, we are very pleased through this award to be able to provide women artists an exciting opportunity to expand their practice and give them a stronger voice,” says La Prairie chief marketing officer Greg Prodromides.

Atem’s winning works will be displayed at The Art Gallery of NSW from Tuesday 15 March to Sunday 22 May 2022.

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