Frank Bowling Wins Museum Ludwig’s Wolfgang Hahn Prize

Frank Bowling is the 2022 winner of the Wolfgang Hahn Prize, which is administered annually by the Museum Ludwig in Cologne. In recognition of the Guyanese-British artist’s innovative approach to painting, the institution will soon add his painting Flogging the Dead Donkey (2020) to its holdings. The acquisition marks the first of Bowling’s works to enter a public collection in Germany.

Bowling will be presented with an award at the museum on November 15, which coincides with the opening of an exhibition of his work. The prize comes with a maximum sum of €100,000 ($116,000), though the amount Bowling would receive was not specified by the museum.

Zoé Whitley, director of the Chisenhale Gallery in London and a juror for the prize, said in a statement, “It is no exaggeration to say that Frank Bowling’s paintings and critical writings have redefined the possibilities of painting. It pays tribute to a determined and uniquely inventive personality in the history of abstract painting.”

Over six decades, Bowling, 87, has created a visual vocabulary defined by monochromatic fields of colors. His paintings borrow from American abstraction and the British landscape tradition to tell personal narratives and global histories. The title Flogging the Dead Donkey, for example, is an ironic commentary by Bowling on the relentless efforts of contemporary artists to reinvent monochrome painting, as if in doing so, they were whipping a dead donkey. Coursing through much of his work is an interest in colonialism and global diasporas.

Yilmaz Dziewior, director of the Museum Ludwig, said in a statement that in Bowling’s work, “the spirit of American color field painting as well as British abstraction combine to form an incomparable, very independent position.”

Bowling’s work is held by numerous museums, and he has exhibited extensively since the 1970s. Recent surveys by Tate Britain in London, the Haus der Kunst in Munich, the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin, and the Sharjah Art Foundation in the United Arab Emirates have significantly bolstered Bowling’s reputation.

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