Johannes Vermeer Award 2016 goes to Steve McQueen

The Dutch Culture Minister, Dr Jet Bussemaker, has selected film director and visual artist Steve McQueen as the recipient of this year’s Johannes Vermeer Award, the Dutch annual state prize for the arts. The jury, chaired by Ernst Hirsch Ballin, unanimously nominated McQueen for his profound and enduring examination of the human condition in his film and video works, which often depict people struggling to preserve their dignity in circumstances of repression. Dr Bussemaker will present the award on Monday 7 November 2016 in the Ridderzaal in The Hague.

Steve McQueen (CBE) is an internationally renowned and acclaimed artist and film director whose work spans many different subjects and locations. Born in London in 1969, he now lives and works in Amsterdam. McQueen has mastered the art of minimalist storytelling with maximum impact. His vision on his video art, sculptures and films is sparing, precise and concentrated.

His themes are universal and range from painful biographies (7th Nov., 2001 and Ashes, 2014) and gold mining in South Africa (Western Deep, 2002) to the coltan mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Gravesend, 2007).

He has directed and produced video works almost every year since 1993. McQueen deploys a wide array of visual tools, from postage stamps commemorating soldiers killed in Iraq (the conceptual project Queen and Country, 2006) to the enigmatic light installation Blues before Sunrise (2012) in Amsterdam’s Vondelpark. His work can now be found in the permanent collections of the Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam), the MoMA (New York), the Tate Gallery (London), The Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago), the Musée National d'Art Moderne George Pompidou (Paris) and in many other museums.

His more recent feature films have seen him emerge into an internationally prominent cineaste. In Hunger (2008), about the 1981 IRA hunger strike, in Shame (2011), about a man struggling with sexual addiction, and in 12 Years a Slave (2013), which received multiple Academy Awards including Best Picture, he utilises the conventions of mainstream cinema while employing an entirely unique idiom to explore such socio-political subjects as resistance to political domination and slavery. In 2014, Time Magazine named Steve McQueen as one of the hundred most influential people in the world.

About the award
The Johannes Vermeer Award is the Dutch state prize for the arts. It consists of the sum of 100,000 euros, which the winner may use to fund a special project in his or her specific field. The Dutch government established the award in 2009, its aim being to honour and encourage exceptional artistic talent. The award is intended for artists working in the Netherlands and across all disciplines. Previous laureates are opera director Pierre Audi, filmmaker and writer Alex van Warmerdam, photographer Erwin Olaf, visual artist Marlene Dumas, architect Rem Koolhaas, graphic designer Irma Boom, and composer and director Michel van der Aa.

The jury for this year’s award consisted of Ernst Hirsch Ballin (chairman), Irma Boom (laureate in 2014), Claudia de Breij, Ann Demeester and Stephan Sanders. The award ceremony will be held on 7 November in the Ridderzaal in The Hague.

Steve McQueen