The Igor Zabel Award for Culture and Theory

The Igor Zabel Award for Culture and Theory acknowledges the exceptional achievements of cultural workers whose work supports, develops, or investigates visual art and culture in Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe. Candidates for the award are international curators, art historians and theorists, art writers or critics who live/work in this region and/or whose work is related to Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe.

Named in honour of the distinguished Slovenian curator and art historian Igor Zabel (1958–2005), the award, an initiative of the ERSTE Foundation (Vienna), has been conferred biennially since 2008 in cooperation with ERSTE Foundation and the Igor Zabel Association for Culture and Theory (Ljubljana).

The award is not by application. A three-member international jury selects the laureate and recipients of three grants based on proposals given by 10 nominators. The laureate receives EUR 40,000; the three working grants are endowed with EUR 15,000 each. With total prize money of EUR 85,000, it is the largest and most prestigious prize for cultural activities related to Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe. The jury and nominators are appointed by the Igor Zabel Association and the ERSTE Foundation. 


The first award ceremony took place in 2008 in Ljubljana, the city of Igor Zabel; after 2018, the award ceremony became rooted in Ljubljana once again. It was first awarded to the Croatian curatorial collective What, How & for Whom (WHW). Polish art historian Piotr Piotrowski (1952–2015) won the prize in 2010, and Suzana Milevska, art historian and curator based in Skopje, was awarded the prize in 2012. In 2014, it was the Russian curator and art writer Ekaterina Degot who received the award, and in 2016 the Russian curator and art writer Viktor Misiano. Curator and director of MoMA in Warsaw Joanna Mytkowska received the award in 2018 and in 2020, it was curator and then director of Ljubljana's Moderna galerija Zdenka Badovinac who received the award. Berlin based art historian and curator Bojana Pejić was awarded in 2022.