Hugo Boss Prize: Art Prize Goes To Danh Vo

The international art community assemble at the Guggenheim in New York City last night despite the clean up operation from hurricane Sandy. The ceremony announcing the winner of the prestigious Hugo Boss Prize was a truly international affair. The esteemed panel of curators, critics, and museum directors made the selection and the winner of the prize was artist Danh Vo  who will receive an award of $100,000 and a solo exhibition at the Guggenheim.

The Hugo Boss Prize is given to an artist whose work represents a significant development in contemporary art. The award sets no restrictions in terms of age, gender, nationality, or medium, and the nominations may include emerging artists as well as more established individuals whose public recognition may be long overdue. Previous winners include Matthew Barney (1996), Douglas Gordon (1998), Marjetica Potrč (2000), Pierre Huyghe (2002), Rirkrit Tiravanija (2004), Tacita Dean (2006), Emily Jacir (2008), and Hans-Peter Feldmann (2010).

The winner, Danh Vo (b. 1975, Bà Rịa, Vietnam) lives and works in Berlin. Vo’s installations deftly intermingle autobiography with larger cultural narratives of migration, history, and identity. He allows poetic new connotations to emerge through the staging of meticulously selected images, objects, and documents. Vo’s work has been featured in solo exhibitions at Kunsthalle Fridericianum, Kassel, Germany (2011); Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen (2010–11); Artists Space, New York (2010); Kunsthalle Basel (2009); Kadist Art Foundation, Paris (2009); Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2008); and Brandenburgischer Kunstverein, Potsdam, Germany (2007). Vo’s work has been featured in such group exhibitions as That’s the way we do it: The Techniques and Aesthetic of Appropriation, From Ei Arakawa to Andy Warhol, Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria (2011); I Am Still Alive: Politics and Everyday Life in Contemporary Drawing, Museum of Modern Art, New York (2011); To the Arts, Citizens!, Museu de arte contemporânea Serralves, Porto, Portugal (2010–11); Gwangju Biennial, South Korea: 10,000 Lives (2010); Strange Comfort (Afforded by the Profession), Kunsthalle Basel (2010); Berlin Biennial (2010);Morality ACT VII: Of Facts and Fables, Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam, Netherlands (2009–10); GAGARIN The Artists in their Own Words, SMAK Stedelijk Museum voor actuele Kunst, Ghent, Belgium (2009–10); Preis der Nationalgalerie für junge Kunst 2009, Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin (2009); Jahresgaben 2008, Kunstverein München, Munich (2008); Yokohama Triennial, Japan: Time Crevasse (2008); Manifesta 7: Comitato, Bolzano, Italy (2008); Where the lions are, Para/Site Art Space, Hong Kong (2008); The California Files: Re-Viewing Side Effects of Cultural Memory, Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, California College of the Arts, San Francisco (2007); Not a Drop but the Fall, Künstlerhaus Bremen, Germany (2005–06); Pilot:2, Pilot, London (2005); and EXIT 2004, Kunstforeningen GL Strand, Copenhagen (2004).

Hugo Boss has always been a company that has sparked controversy. The firms namesake became a member of the Nazi party and a sponsoring member (“Förderndes Mitglied”) of the Schutzstaffel (SS). He joined the German Labour Front in 1936, the Reich Air Protection Association in 1939, and the National Socialist People’s Welfare in 1941. His sales increased from 38,260 RM in 1932 to over 3,300,000 RM in 1941, while his profits increased in the same period from 5,000 RM to 241,000 RM. Though he claimed in a 1934/1935 advertising that he had been a “supplier for Nazi uniforms since 1924”, such supplies are probable since 1928/1929 and certain since 1934, when he became an Reichszeugmeisterei-licensed (official) supplier of uniforms to the Sturmabteilung, Schutzstaffel, Hitler Youth, National Socialist Motor Corps, and other party organizations. To meet demand in later years of the war, Boss used about 30 to 40 prisoners of war and about 150 forced laborers, from the Baltic States, Belgium, France, Italy, Austria, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and the Soviet Union.According to German historian Henning Kober, the company managers were “avowed nazis”, “the Boss were all great admirers of Adolf Hitler”, and Hugo Boss had in 1945 in his apartment a photograph of himself with Hitler taken in the latter’s Obersalzberg retreat.
In a 1946 denazification judgement, based on his early party membership, his financial support of the SS and the uniforms delivered to the Nazi party even before 1933, Boss was considered both an “activist” and a “supporter and beneficiary of National Socialism”. He was stripped of his voting rights, his capacity to run a business and, fined “a very heavy penalty” of 100,000 marks. He died in 1948 but his business survived.
The company has always been known for their stylish clothes and the company today has no connection with the firms dubious past.

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