Icy Ling, CEO and Co-Founder of IC & Co

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22 Mar 2022

Australian artist Atong Atem is the winner of the art gallery of new south wales la prairie art award. This prestigious award promotes and supports Australian contemporary living female artists in the development of their artistic practice.

Furthering its longstanding commitment and intrinsic link with the world of Art and Culture – ranging from its long-standing partnership with art fairs: Art Basel, Frieze and West Bund Art & Design to patronages of iconic cultural institutions like Fondation Beyeler (Basel, Switzerland), MoMa Ps1 (New York, USA) and Centre Pompidou (Paris, France) – Swiss luxury skincare house La Prairie proudly unveils its latest artistic endeavour in partnership with Art Gallery of New South Wales: the La Prairie Art Award. The recipient of this prestigious award is Melbourne-based artist Atong Atem whose striking work was selected from a group of eight Australian female artists by a jury composed of La Prairie and Art Gallery of New South Wales executives.

A progressive photographic artist, originally from South-Sudan, Atong Atem rejoices in capturing her Ethiopian and South-Sudanese heritage in exquisite works capturing a heightened beauty of both her male and female subjects. Atem’s work challenges traditional depictions of African women, styling her subjects with rich and dramatic adornments that heighten their timeless beauty.

On receiving the La Prairie Art Award, Atem said she was grateful and honoured to be the inaugural recipient of the award.

“I am enormously proud to win an award dedicated to contemporary Australian women artists, especially knowing how many remarkable women artists there are working in Australia today. I am thrilled to have my work acquired into the Art Gallery’s collection for the first time, and I would like to thank La Prairie for the opportunity to take my work abroad and create new avenues for my career internationally,” said Atem.

Atem’s new series – created as a result of the La Prairie Art Award – A yellow dress, a bouquet 2022 is a sequential self-portrait consisting of five photographs in which Atem appears in close-up, her face brightly painted. In this work, Atem gestures towards the tropes of classical western paintings traditions, through the postures she assumes and the symmetry of the sequence, while maintaining what she refers to as a “decidedly African, postcolonial aesthetic style” through an emphatic use of colour and texture. The works will enter the permanent collection of the Art Gallery of NSW from March 15. Works will be on display for two weeks on the ground floor of the Art Gallery of NSW and will be shown an additional six weeks from 9 April to 22 May in the public gallery.

The La Prairie Art Award developed in conjunction with Art Gallery of New South Wales strengthens La Prairie’s ongoing commitment to the arts, with a particular focus on championing female artists.

“Since the inception of La Prairie, contemporary art, through a plethora of genres, cultures and profiles, has been an elevated prism in which to tell our story,” according to Greg Prodromides, La Prairie’s Chief Marketing Officer. “This latest endeavour was a natural and authentic one to support female artists and a better gender equity within the local Australian art scene. Atem’s approach to portrait and beauty brings a rich, daring and wholly unique perspective to our brand. Not only does she connect intimately with our mission to push the boundaries of beauty, her talent also allows a better understanding of the essence of what is beautiful.”

Acknowledging the local and international prestige of the new La Prairie Art Award senior curator of contemporary Australian art at Art Gallery of New South Wales Isobel Parker Philip said: “The La Prairie Art Award is an incredibly exciting opportunity for the Gallery. Supporting living artists is of primary importance to us as an institution. This new award recognises the dynamic and critical work being done by contemporary Australian artists. We enthusiastically welcome the award’s focus on female practitioners which reinforces our commitment to gender equity in the arts. The La Prairie Art Award will be transformational for its recipients; encouraging their ambitions and their enabling their practice to grow into new directions. We are thrilled by this partnership and excited to see it develop.”

The La Prairie Art Award is delighted to acquire the artists work for the Art Gallery collection and offers the Award recipient an international residency. As part of the award Atem will travel to Zurich, Switzerland, in June 2022 and attend the Art Basel international art fair and an exhibition of the newly launched Piet Mondrian exhibition at Fondation Beyeler as a VIP guest of the Swiss luxury house. The residency allows artists the opportunity to be inspired and fur ther their practice within Europe.

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