James Turrell, Sebastião Salgado Win $137,000 Praemium Imperiale Award

The Japan Art Association’s Praemium Imperiale award, one of the world’s top art prizes, has gone to sculptor James Turrell and photographer Sebastião Salgado this year. Both will take home 15 million yen, or about $137,000, each.

Turrell has been widely recognized for his grand installations that make use of elegant plays of light. In 2013, for example, he transformed the Guggenheim Museum in New York with his monumental installation Aten Reign, through which the institution’s Frank Lloyd Wright–designed rotunda came to resemble a series of colorful concentric ovals via scrims and lights. Since the 1970s, Turrell has been at work on building his biggest piece to date at Roden Crater in northern Arizona, which has yet to open.

Salgado is known for his black-and-white photographs that attempt to visualize climate change, often by picturing places, species, and peoples that are being rapidly reshaped by global warming. Past series have focused on oil wells in Kuwait, coffee workers around the world, and the Amazonia region of Salgado’s home country, Brazil. In addition to his work as an artist, Salgado has undertaken various activist initiatives, some of them with his wife Lélia Wanick Salgado.

Salgado received the award for painting, and Turrell received the award for sculpture. Also receiving the Praemium Imperiale this year are architect Glenn Murcutt and cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who were awarded prizes for architecture and music, respectively.

A prize for theatre and film was not awarded this year. “Due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, a number of candidates were unable to meet the requirements for the award,” the Praemium Imperiale said of its choice not to name a recipient of that prize.

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