Iwona Blazwick, OBE, Director of the Whitechapel Gallery has announced Emma Hart as the sixth winner of the prestigious Max Mara Art Prize for Women at a ceremony at the Whitechapel Gallery, London, on 3 February 2016. The Prize, which has been awarded in alternate years since 2005, supports UK-based female artists who have not previously had a solo survey exhibition, making it the only visual art prize of its kind the UK.

London based artist Emma Hart (b. 1974) was chosen by a panel of expert judges from a five-strong shortlist including Ruth Ewan, Ana Genovés, Tania Kovats and Phoebe Unwin, all of whom presented proposals for an artist residency in Italy. As the winner, Hart will now spend six months in Lombardy, Umbria and Emilia-Romagna during 2016 on a residency tailored to her interests, creating a new body of work that will be shown in a major solo exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery in 2017 before touring to Collezione Maramotti in Reggio Emilia, Italy.

Emma Hart works across ceramics, video, photography and sound. Actively channelling her autobiography, anxieties, and embarrassments into her work, her practice is concerned with the way real experiences and emotions are misrepresented and muted when captured on camera.  She sets photographs and video screens against crude clay shapes, or scales-up ceramics in detailed installations that saturate the senses.

Her winning proposal for the Max Mara Art Prize for Women focuses on a subject central to her life and work: the power of the family. By exploring the unique Italian ethos and traditions of family through symbols, possessions and objects, as well as systems and relationships that exist in Italian culture, Hart wants to expose the highs and lows and everyday realities of family life.

Hart’s bespoke residency, organised by Collezione Maramotti in collaboration with Max Mara and the Whitechapel Gallery, starts in June 2016 and is divided between three Italian cities Milan, Todi and Faenza. In Milan, Lombardy, she will spend two months based at Via Farini VIR – DOCVA on an international programme for artist residencies. She will be researching the Milan Systems Approach, a systemic and constructivist method of family therapy as well as the pioneering work of Italian psychiatrist Mara Selvini Palazzoli who developed this model of therapy.

For the second phase of the residency, Hart will spend three weeks in Todi, Umbria where she will have time to consolidate her research at Italian conceptual artist Alighiero Boetti’s studio which is managed by his son Matteo Boetti, who is the founder of nearby contemporary art gallery Bibo’s Place. Hart will also have the opportunity to connect with a number of cultural institutions in the region, in particular the Fondazione Burri which holds a number of works by painter and sculptor Alberto Burri. She will also visit Deruta, a hill town known for its world renowned ceramics.

The residency will end in Faenza, Ravenna, Emilia- Romagna where Hart will study and experiment with the production of ceramics at Museo Carlo Zauli, an important institution renowned for its innovative work with artists. Faenza is also home to the International Museum of Ceramics, the largest and most important collection of ceramics in the world where Hart will have the opportunity to discover both ancient and contemporary ceramic making techniques. She will also travel to Rome and Naples for short stays during the residency to enhance her research.

The judging panel for the sixth Max Mara Art Prize for Women was chaired by Iwona Blazwick OBE, Director of the Whitechapel Gallery, joined by Fiona Bradley, Director of the Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh; Sarah Elson, Collector and Founder of Launch Pad, a commissioning series supporting emerging artists; Helen Sumpter, Critic and Senior Editor / Web Editor at ArtReview; and Artist and Royal Academician Alison Wilding.

On behalf of the judging panel Iwona Blazwick, OBE, Director of the Whitechapel Gallery and chair of the Max Mara Art Prize for Women jury, said:It was clear that Emma Hart’s proposal was a deeply personal subject key to her life and work: the power of the family. The jury were impressed with the depth and breadth of references in Hart’s approach, from the Milan System’s Approach of family psychotherapy to the novels of Elena Ferrante, to the Italian tradition of Maiolica ceramics. The Prize and residency in Italy offer Hart a rare chance at an important moment in her career, to enrich and develop a new body of work. The balance of deepening formal skills and understanding of her chosen media and the time and space to develop her research will no doubt inform her work. The Whitechapel Gallery counts Picasso, Pollock and Rothko among our alumni, but we also gave Barbara Hepworth, Frida Kahlo, Eva Hesse, Cindy Sherman, Nan Goldin, Isa Genzken, Gillian Wearing and Sarah Lucas their first major solo shows. We are delighted to welcome Emma Hart into our history books and present her at the Gallery in 2017.’

Emma Hart, winner of the Max Mara Art Prize for Women 2015-17 said:I am truly delighted to have won this prize. It gives me the time and space to make work in a focused manner that unfortunately normally evades me. I can concentrate, experiment and fully immerse myself in new ideas and methods.  I have also never really left London, so 6 months in Italy will be the adventure of a lifetime.

Dr. Luigi Maramotti, Chairman of Max Mara said: ‘I am very excited about Emma’s project as it explores two particularly rich areas of expertise in Italy – the field of psychotherapy and the tradition of ceramics, both historic and contemporary. The production of ceramics has been consistently innovative, particularly in Faenza. We are excited to see how Emma interprets this tradition into her thoroughly personal and contemporary practice. This Prize is something we are very proud of; it is unique as we offer artists the time, space and freedom to create new work while experiencing Italian cultural heritage and aesthetics. I am delighted that once again the artist’s family will be joining her on this journey; from both a personal and artistic point of view it will no doubt enrich her experience. I would like to thank our esteemed panel of judges, Iwona Blazwick and the Whitechapel Gallery for their continued work in making this such an important and respected prize. My gratitude and praise also goes to Emma and I look forward to welcoming her to the Collezione Maramotti in the coming months.’

Notes for Editors

  • Emma Hart lives and works in London. Recent solo exhibitions include: big MOUTH, Grand Union, Birmingham (2015); Sticky, Austrian Cultural Forum, London (2015); Spread, Art Exchange (2015); Giving It All That, Folkestone Triennial (2014); Dirty Looks, Camden Arts Centre (2013); M20 Death Drives, Whitstable Biennale, Whitstable (2012); TO DO, Matt’s Gallery, London; Word Processor, Stanley Picker Gallery, London (2012). Recent group exhibitions include: SUCKERZ, L’etrangere, London (2015) a joint show with Jonathan Baldock; Only the Lonely, La Galerie CAC Noisy Le Sec, France (2015);  Dear Luxembourg, Nosbaum Reding, Luxembourg (2015); Hey I’m Mr.Poetic, Wysing Arts Centre (2014); Bloody English, OHWOW Gallery, Los Angeles (2013); The World Turned Upside DownMead Gallery, Coventry (2013). In 2015 she was awarded a Paul Hamlyn Foundation award for Visual Art. Hart was shortlisted for The Jarman Awards in 2013, and awarded a Random Acts commission. In 2012 she was shortlisted for the Jerwood / Film and Video Umbrella Awards: Tomorrow Never Knows, with an exhibition at Jerwood Space, London. Hart was resident at Camden Arts Centre with her Question Department in 2009 and for The Forest residency at Wysing Arts Centre in 2012. She received an MA in Fine Art from the Slade in 2004 and completed her PhD in Fine Art at Kingston University in 2013. Hart is a lecturer on BA Fine Art at Central Saint Martins. Previous winners of the Max Mara Art Prize for Women are Corin Sworn (2013 – 2015, Laure Prouvost (2011-13), Andrea Büttner (2009-11), Hannah Rickards (2007-09) and Margaret Salmon (2005-07).
  • The Max Mara Art Prize for Women in collaboration with the Whitechapel Gallery is a biannual award established in 2005. It is the only visual art prize for women in the UK and aims to promote and nurture female artists, enabling them to develop their potential with the gift of time and space. The winner is awarded a six month Italian residency tailored to fit the artist and their winning proposal for the Prize. During the residency which is organised by Collezione Maramotti in collaboration with Max Mara and the Whitechapel Gallery, the artist has the opportunity to realise an ambitious new project which is presented in major solo exhibitions at the Whitechapel Gallery in London and Collezione Maramotti in Reggio Emilia, Italy. The prize is open to women artists living and working in the United Kingdom who have not previously had a major solo survey exhibition. The partners of the prize are Max Mara, Whitechapel Gallery and Collezione Maramotti who collaborate on each phase of the prize. Each year a jury chaired by Whitechapel Gallery Director Iwona Blazwick and including a gallerist, critic, artist and collector agree a shortlist of five artists before the winner is decided based on a winning proposal. The Max Mara Art Prize for Women was awarded the British Council Arts & Business International Award in 2007 and has enabled winning artists to take major steps in their careers. Previous winners of the Max Mara Art Prize for Women are Corin Sworn (2013-15) – Sworn (b.1976) created a work drawing from the Commedia dell’Arte improvised plays originating in 16th century Italy. The work is on show at Collezione Maramotti, Reggio Emilia, Italy until 28 February 2016.  Sworn was awarded the Leverhulme Prize 2015 which recognises the achievement of outstanding researchers whose work has already attracted international recognition and whose future career is exceptionally promising. Laure Prouvost (2011-13) – Laure Prouvost created an ambitious new large-scale installation for her Max Mara Art Prize exhibition, for which she was awarded the Turner Prize in 2013. Andrea Büttner (2009-11) – Part of Andrea Büttner’s work created for her Max Mara Art Prize exhibition, The Poverty of Riches, and titled Untitled (Paintings) (2011) was included in the Whitechapel Gallery’s landmark exhibition Adventures of the Black Square in 2015. Hannah Rickards (2007-2009) – The prize enabled Hannah Rickards to realise an ambitious new work she had been researching before winning the Prize. Rickards was also awarded the Leverhulme Prize in 2015 and had a major exhibition at Modern Art Oxford in 2014. Margaret Salmon (2005-2007) – Margaret Salmon travelled to Italy and created a triptych of black and white films exploring themes of motherhood. She went on to exhibit at the Venice Biennale in 2007.
  • The Max Mara Fashion Group was founded in 1951 by Achille Maramotti and is now run by the next generation. It is one of the largest women’s ready-to-wear companies in the world, with 2462 stores in more than 100 different countries
  • The Collezione Maramotti opened to the public in Reggio Emilia, Italy on 2007. It is a private collection  of contemporary art with an important historical collection (1950-2000);it keeps on with new projects and commissions to international  mid career and young artists. For further information, please visit www.collezionemaramotti.org
  • For over a century the Whitechapel Gallery has premiered world-class artists from modern masters to contemporaries. The Gallery is renowned for showcasing emerging and established female artists and has presented major solo exhibitions of Barbara Hepworth (1955), Eva Hesse (1979), Frida Kahlo (1982), Nan Goldin (2002), Sophie Calle (2009), Gillian Wearing (2012) and Sarah Lucas (2013). The Gallery is a touchstone for modern and contemporary art internationally, plays a central role in London’s cultural landscape and is pivotal to the continued growth of the world’s most vibrant contemporary art quarter.

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