Archive: Issue No. 74, October 2003

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Berni Searle shortlisted for prestigious international art prize
by Sean O'Toole

Berni Searle, currently Standard Bank Young Artist for 2003, is one of ten artists shortlisted for the prestigious Artes Mundi award, which offers a �40,000 purse to the winner. This is twice the sum given to the winner of the much-feted Turner Prize, and is paid for by a number of Welsh organisations, including the Arts Council of Wales, the Welsh Development Agency and the Welsh Assembly Government.

This year's shortlist comprises seven women artists and three male artists, whose work reflects the broad theme of the Prize: human form, human condition and humanity. The other shortlisted artists are:

Janine Antoni, born 1964 in the Bahamas and now living in New York;
Lee Bul, born 1964 in Korea, now resident in Seoul;
Tim Davies, born 1960 in Wales, where he is currently lives and works;
Jacqueline Fraser, born 1956 in New Zealand, where still lives;
Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba, born 1968 in Japan, now resident in Vietnam;
Michal Rovner, born 1957 in Israel, who lives between New York and Israel;
Fiona Tan, born 1966 in Indonesia, now living in the Netherlands;
Kara Walker, born 1969 in California, and currently residing in New York; and
Xu Bing, born 1955 in China, who also lives in New York.

The announcement was made on September 15, in Cardiff and London simultaneously. Making the announcement, Declan McGonagle said on behalf of himself and co-selector Fumio Nanjo: "What struck us in researching for the shortlist was just how many contemporary artists are trying to reconnect art practice to what I would call 'life processes' and with the 'stuff' of humanity: history, identity and memory, the body and communication".

This insight is particularly pertinent to Searle, whose work probes notions of cultural and racial identity with a poignant deftness of tone, one that is neither confrontational nor trite. Searle has increasingly gained visibility on the international art circuit over the last few years. Her nomination will go a long way towards correcting the imbalances characterising 'export' South African art, which is still largely the preserve of an elite core of male artists.

The Artes Mundi prize was launched last October in a bid to promote the Welsh assembly's ambitions to put Wales on the cultural map of the world. Cardiff is bidding to become European Capital of Culture in 2008.