Pollock-Krasner Foundation Establishes the Annual Pollock Prize for Creativity

South African Photographer Gideon Mendel Is First Recipient

Gideon Mendel, Chinita and Samundri Davi. Salempur Village near Muzaffarpur, Bihar, India, August 2007.Lightjet C type photographic print on Fuji Crystal Archive Paper, 100 x 100 cm

NEW YORK, NY, March 16, 2016 – Charles C. Bergman, chairman and CEO of the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, today announced the establishment of a new award, the Pollock Prize for Creativity, honoring an outstanding artist whose work embodies high creative standards and exemplifies the impact of art on individuals and society. Given on a yearly basis, the Pollock Prize carries a cash award of $50,000 and the recognition of the organization safeguarding the artistic legacies of Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner.

The recipient of the inaugural Pollock Prize for Creativity is photographer Gideon Mendel. Born in Johannesburg in 1959, Mendel first came to prominence as a “struggle photographer” during the final years of apartheid. After moving to London in the early 1990s, he expanded the range of his subject matter to include the lives of people with HIV/AIDS in Africa and elsewhere (A Broken Landscape; Framing AIDS) and the effects of climate change (Drowning World). In his ongoing project Through Positive Eyes, he has served not as a photographer but an enabler, handing the camera to people living with HIV so they can show their own reality. His work has been exhibited in numerous gallery and museum shows (including the ICP Triennial in New York) and published in magazines including National Geographic, Rolling Stone, L’Express, Stern, The Sunday Times Magazine and The Guardian Weekend Magazine. Among the honors he has previously received are the Eugene Smith Award for Humanistic Photography and the Amnesty International Media Award for Photojournalism. The exhibition Drowning World: Gideon Mendel will be presented May 13 – October 16, 2016, at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University. He is represented by Axis Gallery in New York.

“As the Pollock-Krasner Foundation celebrates its 30th anniversary, we are proud to expand on our record of service by inaugurating the Pollock Prize for Creativity,” Charles Bergman stated. “It is a natural extension of our mission to provide financial assistance to individual artists of established ability, which we have done by making more than 4,100 grants to date in 77 countries, for a total of more than $65 million.”

The new prize is an extension of the existing Lee Krasner Award, given to an older artist in recognition of a lifetime of achievement. The Pollock Prize, by contrast, will lend support to outstanding artists who may be in mid-career, and whose ongoing work has a social and cultural dimension. The Prize will be awarded to an artist working in one of the disciplines the Pollock-Krasner Foundation supports—painting, sculpture, works on paper and printmaking, or photography. As with the Lee Krasner Award, there is no application for the Pollock Prize, which is given by a Foundation jury based on the recommendations of a network of nominators.

Charles Bergman said, “I am deeply grateful to our president Samuel Sachs II, our executive vice president Kerrie Buitrago and our program director Caroline Black for developing this new initiative, which carries forward the Foundation’s mission.”

Gideon Mendel said, “It’s a huge honor to receive this award named after Jackson Pollock, an artist I’ve always loved for his freedom in breaking barriers. Because my own work increasingly straddles the border between art, documentation and activism, it’s all the more important to me that the prize is given not for photography but for creativity in general. For the past nine years, the Drowning World project has been an all-consuming labor of love—an incredibly complex and expensive labor. I am deeply grateful to the Pollock-Krasner Foundation for recognizing the project through this prize, which will help me immeasurably in bringing Drowning World to completion.”

The Foundation’s President, Samuel Sachs II, said, “I congratulate Gideon Mendel, who creates powerful images and uses his art to raise awareness of critical issues and encourage change. It is with appreciation that we confer on him the first Pollock Prize for Creativity.”

The Pollock-Krasner Foundation, Inc. was established in 1985 through the generosity of the late Lee Krasner, one of the leading abstraction expressionist painters and the widow of Jackson Pollock. Based in New York but operating internationally, the Foundation through its grants has enabled artists to create new work, purchase needed materials and pay for studio rent, as well as meet their personal and medical expenses. Recipients of Pollock-Krasner grants have acknowledged their critical impact in allowing concentrated time to work in the studio and prepare for exhibitions and other professional opportunities such as residencies.

To provide additional support, the Foundation maintains an up to date and comprehensive Grantee Image Collection representing the work of artists who have received grants since inception. Each artist is requested to give the Foundation permission to post two images of works from the year of his or her grant and also has the option of adding to this number with later works. The database also provides contact information for each artist.

Other initiatives of the Pollock-Krasner Foundation have included taking a leadership role (along with the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts) in supporting the groundbreaking report by the Aspen Institute’s Program on Philanthropy and Social Innovation, The Artist as Philanthropist: Strengthening the Next Generation of Artist-Endowed Foundations.

For more information, including guidelines for grant applications, the public may visit the Foundation’s website at www.pkf.org.

Image credit: Gideon Mendel, Jeff and Tracey Waters, Staines-upon-Thames, Surrey, UK (February 2014), 122 by 122 cm, Lightjet C Type photographic print on Fuji Crystal Archive Paper

Polskin Arts & Communications Counselors
Natasha Le Bel, Executive Vice President
Natasha.LeBel@finnpartners.com / 212-715-1644