Belgian-born interdisciplinary artist Francis Alÿs has been named the winner of the 2023 Wolfgang Hahn Prize. Appended by a cash award of €100,000 ($100,000), the prize is one of the art world’s largest. Alÿs, who lives in Mexico City and whose practice spans installation, painting, drawing, and social actions, will see his work acquired by Cologne’s Museum Ludwig, the prize’s sponsor. An exhibition of Alÿs’s work will additionally take place at the museum in the autumn of 2023.
“I am much honored, and in these polarized times, receiving such an award is significant and invigorating as it makes me feel that there is some coincidence of my own preoccupations and the public’s, and that a dialogue is possible,” Alÿs said. Previous winners of the prize include Frank Bowling, Haegue Yang, Trisha Donnelly, Kerry James Marshall, Mike Kelley, and Rosemarie Trockel.
Alÿs has since the 1990s investigated war, borders, and the plight of refugees, often through works that place himself and others in situations that reveal larger problems; he has cited the act of walking as central to his practice. In one early work, The Leak, 1995, he wandered about São Paulo with can of blue paint, from which he poured the liquid in a thin stream, revealing his path. For 2002’s Faith Moves Mountains, Alÿs enlisted five hundred volunteers to move a 1,640-foot-long sand dune outside Lima. Strung out in a single line and acting in concert, the participants shifted the dune several inches by shoveling sand a step at a time from one side of the dune to the other. Alÿs is currently representing Belgium at the Fifty-Ninth Venice Biennale with his exhibition “The Nature of the Game.” Comprising a number of short films he has shot since 1999, all showing children at play with humble materials in their native and frequently impoverished regions, which span the globe, the exhibition has drawn glowing reviews for its vibrant and positive depiction of its subjects as the architects of their own lives.