Anish Kapoor has announced that he will donate his $1m Genesis Prize Foundation (GPF) award to five prominent NGOs engaged in alleviating the global refugee crisis. Known as the“Jewish Nobel,” prize, laureate Kapoor has pledged the award to organisations to assist refugees globally and include the International Rescue Committee (IRC), led by its president David Miliband, as well as the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees (MFA), HIAS (founded as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society), Help Refugees, and Hillel International.
I do not have to go far back in my family history to find people who were refugees – Anish Kapoor
Sir Anish has chosen to focus on refugees as an expression both of his lifelong commitment to supporting excluded people. The Genesis Prize honors extraordinary individuals who serve as an inspiration to the next generation of Jews through their outstanding professional achievement, and commitment to the Jewish people and Jewish values, such as social justice, tolerance and charity. Laureates of the Genesis Prize include Michael R. Bloomberg (2014), Michael Douglas (2015), Itzhak Perlman (2016), and Natalie Portman (2018). In November 2017, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was selected as the inaugural recipient of the Genesis Lifetime Achievement Award.
Kapoor and The Genesis Prize Foundation have teamed up with the IRC to improve community health services for refugees in northern Uganda and to provide life-saving access to safe water for the Rohingya ethnic minority group in the Rakhine state in Myanmar. Genesis funds will also support the expansion into Italy of Refugee.Info, a digital platform, which harnesses social media and other digital tools to ensure that refugees have access to the critical information they need to make informed decisions about their lives.
Additionally, Kapoor’s $1 million Genesis Prize will fund the following activities:
Providing life-saving winterization to five refugee camps in Greece and a refugee camp in Calais, France, including the funding of food and the most essential winter equipment (through Help Refugees)
Shipping 36 containers of aid to Syrian refugees (through Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees); the contents of the first two containers that MFA will ship under the Genesis Prize program will have a combined value of $20.7 million in medicines and medical equipment
Strengthening the capacity of local leaders in communities across America to advocate in support of immigrants and refugees to the U.S. (through HIAS); the amount of the grant was doubled as a result of recent policy debate in Washington aimed at curtailing the number of immigrants and refugees from certain countries that the U.S. would accept in the future
Bringing thousands of Jewish students and young adult volunteers together to assemble aid packages for 5,000 Syrian refugees (through Hillel International, in collaboration with the Joint Distribution Committee)
These grants come on the heels of an earlier announcement of a major grant from GPF to Ziv hospital in northern Israelto fund hearing restoration for Syrian children brought from the neighbouring conflict zone. The Ziv grant was made in partnership with Israeli philanthropist Morris Kahn.
Anish Kapoor said: “Like many Jews, I do not have to go far back in my family history to find people who were refugees. Directing Genesis Prize funds to this cause is a way of helping people who, like my forebears not too long before them, are fleeing persecution.
“In recent months, awareness of the plight faced by tens of millions of refugees and displaced persons worldwide has fallen significantly while the refugee crisis continues unabated. I believe in a world of compassion, and am fortunate to be able to work with The Genesis Prize Foundation and the terrific NGOs receiving our grants to bring more compassion into the world.”
Michael Fridman, co-founder of The Genesis Prize Foundation, said: “I believe it is a moral obligation of every Jew to do whatever he or she can to help refugees, displaced people, and those seeking asylum. There was a time not too long ago when the world turned its back on Jewish refugees, with calamitous results. We, Jews, should not allow history to repeat itself when it comes to other persecuted peoples and religious and ethnic minorities. Otherwise, we have learned nothing from history.” In addition to co-founding The Genesis Prize Foundation, Fridman is a major contributor to many other Jewish and Israel-focused philanthropic initiatives, including the recently announced renovation of the Israeli Lounge at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.
President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, David Miliband, himself a son of Jewish refugees, said: “Grants like the one from The Genesis Prize Foundation are vital to supporting our work as we grapple with the largest displacement crisis since the Second World War, affecting a staggering 65 million people. “We are grateful to The Genesis Prize Foundation, which is leading the way in raising awareness of the refugee issue in the Jewish community. It is more important than ever for people to help those who have been forced to flee their homes. With these funds, the IRC will have the ability to provide much-needed resources and support to displaced people in areas across Europe, Africa and Southeast Asia.”
Anish Kapoor was born in Mumbai, India in 1954 and lives and works in London. He studied at Hornsey College of Art, London, UK (1973–77) followed by postgraduate studies at Chelsea School of Art, London, UK (1977–78). Kapoor is one of the most influential sculptors of his generation. Perhaps most famous for public sculptures that are both adventures in form and feats of engineering, he manoeuvres between vastly different scales, across numerous series of work. Immense PVC skins, stretched or deflated; concave or convex mirrors whose reflections attract and swallow the viewer; recesses carved in stone and pigmented so as to disappear: these voids and protrusions summon up deep-felt metaphysical polarities of presence and absence, concealment and revelation. Forms turn themselves inside out, womb-like, and materials are not painted but impregnated with colour, as if to negate the idea of an outer surface, inviting the viewer to the inner reaches of the imagination. Kapoor’s geometric forms from the early 1980s, for example, rise up from the floor and appear to be made of pure pigment, while the viscous, blood-red wax sculptures from the last ten years – kinetic and self-generating – ravage their own surfaces and explode the quiet of the gallery environment. There are resonances with mythologies of the ancient world – Indian, Egyptian, Greek and Roman – and with modern times, where 20th century events loom large.
Top Photo: P C Robinson © Artlyst 2018