The Igor Zabel Award for Culture and Theory 2010

Piotr Piotrowski, Director of the National Museum in Warsaw, honored as an outstanding art historian of the Central Eastern European region, is the recipient of the Igor Zabel Award for Culture and Theory 2010 in the amount of EUR 40,000.

In addition to the award, three grants of EUR 12,000 are usually also awarded – two by the jury and one by the laureate. In 2010, the jury decided to award three working grants in the amount of EUR 8,000 instead of two, because among “the strongest nominees were single individuals, communities, and collectives. They pursue very different activities, work in very different terrains (...) and we wanted to honor the best ones from each category.” The jury granted the Croatian-British writers and curators Maja and Reuben Fowkes, the Romanian curator Raluca Voinea, and the interdisciplinary Peace Institute from Ljubljana, Slovenia. The fourth grant in the amount of EUR 12,000, has been appointed by the laureate, Piotr Piotrowski, and went to the Bratislava-based art historian Daniel Grúň.

Jury 2010:
Edit András
, art historian (Hungary/USA)
Chus Martínez, curator (Spain)
Tadej Pogačar, artist (Slovenia)

Detailed programme of the award ceremony, on the 10th of December, 2010 at MACBA, Barcelona.

Laureate 2010

Piotr Piotrowski is honored with the Igor Zabel Award for his art history writing in Eastern Europe, which is barely visible in the canonised, so-called universal, art history. Piotrowski is Professor Ordinarius at the Institute of Art History, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan (Poland). Since August 2009, he has also been the Director of the National Museum in Warsaw. The jury expresses its appreciation and support for his work and acknowledges “one of the most outstanding art historians of the Central Eastern European region, who has exceptional professional achievements.” Piotr Piotrowski has a significant body of writing focusing on transnational modern and contemporary art. His main goal is to subvert the traditional geography of art that functions as a tool of subordination and to offer the marginal position as an analytic advantage, based on his conviction that “the margin can reveal elements that are invisible from the centre.” He is active in setting up a network, as well as disseminating the specific art practices and ideas that originate in the region, outside of the centres. By doing so, Piotr Piotrowski acts as a sort of cultural ambassador.

Grant recipients 2010

The Peace Institute is a non-profit research institution developing interdisciplinary research activities in sociology, anthropology, philosophy, cultural policy and political science based in Ljubljana/Slovenia. It was founded in 1991 by a group of independent intellectuals who had been civil society activists in the post-socialist processes in Slovenia and Yugoslavia. Especially in the field of education, the Peace Institute’s project The Workers’ Punk University offers new possibilities for alternative (self‑)education that is based on new forms of solidarity, inclusive politics and free thinking. The jury stresses that the Peace Institute has in the last twenty years made an extremely important contribution to critical research of social, cultural and political transitional processes and has been deeply dedicated in dealing with marginalised social and political themes, linking them to educational practice.

Maja and Reuben Fowkes, of Croatian and British origin, respectively, are partners in private and professional life. They live and work in Budapest, Hungary. Their activity has become a stimulating and important force in the Central Eastern European region. They are involved in a number of different activities as initiators and participants, in curating (1956: Revolution is Not a Garden Party, 2006; 1968: Revolution I Love You, 2008; 1989: Revolutionary Decadence, 2009; etc.), writing, editing accompanying publications and organizing conferences (The Social East Seminar). They bring back issues and topics that seem to have disappeared from the scenes of the ex-Eastern bloc, such as political and subversive practices, the heritage of revolutionary and utopian thinking, the memory discourse and sustainability.

Raluca Voinea is a young scholar and curator based in Romania. She is especially interested in researching how contemporary art practice and artistic research enhances our common understanding of the social. Her interest in writing, her attentiveness to history, exhibition history, in particular, makes her research relevant since it helps to connect fields and also different generations that experience history, time and even the very understanding of art in totally different forms. Her research has the quality of opening up, sharing, including, expanding not only the questions, the references, but also the concepts we have inherited to address certain practices, to talk and to write about art.

Third grant is traditionally dedicated by the laureate. Piotr Piotrowski awarded Daniel Grúň, an art historian, curator, writer and art critic. He studied art history at Trnava University (Slovak Republic) and later received a Visegrad Scholarship at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan and Charles University in Prague. In 2009, he completed his PhD thesis and published a book entitled Archeology of Art Criticism: Slovak Art of the 1960s and Its Interpretations dealing with artistic discourse in Czechoslovakia during the democratisation process of the socialist regime. Currently, he works as an Assistant Professor at the Department of Theory and History of Art, Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava, Slovak Republic.

Photo: David Campos
Photo: David Campos

after the award

In 2020, we asked previous recipients to reflect on the impact of the award.

Daniel Grúň

“In 2010, I was nominated for the Igor Zabel Award Grant by the award laureate Professor Piotr Piotrowski. At the time, I was a young and inexperienced recent graduate of doctoral studies. Apart from a just published book on art criticism in Czechoslovakia in the 1960s, I had not completed any major projects. The grant was a big surprise for me, and I enjoyed it all the more and still appreciate it to this day because it bears the name of Igor Zabel upon whose work I still rely. This was also the time when I started researching the archive of Slovak artist, Július Koller, and I put all the financial means and time I had at my disposal into researching this huge archive. At the same time, I was travelling and getting acquainted with similar archival projects in other European cities and also in New York. My research into the Július Koller Archive deepened when I received an offer to work on a retrospective of the artist at the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw and Vienna in 2016–2017. My encounters with professional curators during this project as well as the preparation of the exhibition concept and its realization was a great experience for me. Since then, I have worked on several other exhibitions and publications, making many friends and professional contacts along the way. In essence, the voyage that began when I received the Igor Zabel Award Grant continues to this day in my research, curatorial, and teaching work.”