This year, the Prix de Rome Visual Arts will be held at the Stedelijk Museum. The exhibition presents new work by the nominated artists: Sander Breure & Witte van Hulzen, Esiri Erheriene-Essi, Femke Herregraven and Rory Pilgrim. Two weeks after the opening, on Thursday 31 October, Ingrid van Engelshoven, Minister of Education, Culture and Science, will announce the winner.

Since May, the artists have been working on the development of new work that the international jury will assess. The winning artist will receive 40,000 euros and a residency at the American Academy in Rome. The Prix de Rome has been developed in cooperation with the Stedelijk and will be exhibited at the museum until 22 March 2020. At the Stedelijk Museum, Claire van Els (junior curator) is responsible for the set-up of the exhibition. Apart from the exhibition, the museum organizes a public programme.

As the largest museum for modern and contemporary art in the Netherlands, the Stedelijk Museum has been at the basis of the careers of many artists. The Prix de Rome also functions as a springboard for talent and underlines the importance of visual art. For us, offering space to the oldest award for artists feels like a natural cooperation.

(Jan Willem Sieburgh, interim director of Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam)

The jury made its selection of nominated artists from a list of 108 artists; some of these were proposed by scouts, others initiated proposals themselves or were nominated by a third party. The jury has selected artists with a marked artistic practice and focus, who, with their work, contribute to topical and relevant debates in contemporary art. The variety of artistic approaches and themes also played a role in the selection. From their own perspectives, practices and styles, the artists are engaged in urgent social, political and cultural issues. The jury consists of Lonnie van Brummelen (visual artist, winner of Prix de Rome 2005), Amira Gad (curator of Serpentine Galleries, London), Peter Gorschlüter (director of Museum Folkwang, Essen), Frank Koolen (visual artist) and Yasmijn Jarram (curator of GEM, The Hague). Chair without right to vote is Valentijn Byvanck (director of Marres, House of Contemporary Culture, Maastricht).

The collaboration between Sander Breure (1985) and Witte van Hulzen (1984) started ten years ago by making dance performances. Since then, they have moved to the field of visual arts, presenting performances, videos and sculptures. Their dramaturgical analysis of daily life and their observations of human behaviour form the basis of their work. The jury appreciates the ways in which they develop and formulate their observations to build richly imaginative stories. For the Prix de Rome they work on an installation in which sculpture and performance are first brought together for a longer period of time, based on two worlds that seemingly diverge.

Esiri Erheriene-Essi’s (1982) figurative paintings are colourful depictions of everyday life that present implicit commentaries on society and history. Her paintings incorporate images, objects and documents from her personal archive, to voice and render visible forgotten or unseen historical narratives. Through the artist’s use of various styles and her keen eye for society, her paintings offer a new reading of moments from the past. The jury appreciates the richness and complexities of the artist’s paintings and her ability to activate and engage with urgent socio-political issues in a subtle way. For the Prix de Rome, Erheriene-Essi highlights the ordinary moments from the lives of black people. This results in paintings that everybody can relate to, and that may encourage one to reflect on the lives of the portrayed people and the historical events they may have witnessed.

Femke Herregraven’s (1982) research-based art practice focuses on financial and geological self-organizing systems that influence the course of history. The underpinning research provides input for developing new calculations, speculations and conversations that inform her drawings, writings, scripts, videos and installations. The jury appreciates Herregraven’s focus on new technologies and her ability to translate complex systems into transparent vocabularies. For the Prix de Rome, Herregraven adds an important chapter to her research into cat bonds, with a key role for controversial research into the aquatic ape hypothesis.

Rory Pilgrim (1988) works with a wide range of media including sound, song lyrics, film, music, video, drawing and performance. Pilgrim’s work is centered around emancipatory concerns; through sharing and voicing personal experiences, it provides a commentary on the way in which people come together, speak, listen and strive for social change. Influenced by activist, feminist and socially engaged art, Pilgrim works on dialogues, collaborations and workshops, often with the help of partners and groups. The jury is impressed with the authenticity in Pilgrim’s work, his poetic and inclusive approach to themes such as solidarity and sense of community. The film he develops for the Prix de Rome highlights the relation between ecological consciousness and the social education of young people. The filming took place in Boise, Idaho (USA) during workshops that Pilgrim organized with young climate activists and with a homeless community.