Frank Bowling (b.1934, Bartica, Guyana) will be awarded the 2022 Wolfgang Hahn Prize by the Gesellschaft für Moderne Kunst am Museum Ludwig. The award ceremony always also includes an acquisition for the collection of the Museum Ludwig. Thanks to the artist’s generosity, the 2022 Wolfgang Hahn Prize will mark the first acquisition of one of his works for a public collection in Germany. Frank Bowling's painting Flogging the Dead Donkey (2020) becomes part of the Museum Ludwig collection.
The work’s title is an ironic statement by the artist about his preoccupation with abstract painting. Bowling’s interest in abstraction began in 1966, during his early years in New York when he encountered the works of Ad Reinhardt, Barnett Newman, Clyfford Still, Marcia Hafif, and Mark Rothko, all of whom experimented with monochrome painting and its variants. The overall composition of Bowling’s painting is an homage to this earlier generations of colorists, and illustrates his ongoing engagement with monochrome painting. From the complexity of the surface textures and the extraordinary intensity of the red tones, as well as the subtle flashes of other colors and remnants of gold pigments, this late work gives life to his maxim that “the possibilities of color are infinite.”
Flogging the Dead Donkey will be shown in a presentation at Museum Ludwig from November 16, 2022 to February 12, 2023. Also on display will be a print derived from the drip edge of the painting, along with archival materials and writings that highlight Bowling's diverse engagement with art as an artist and writer. Additionally, a film by his son Sacha Bowling will combine photographic and film footage from throughout his artistic career with an interview between Bowling and writer and critic Mel Gooding.
“Frank Bowling is being recognized for his work in the latter part of a long career and at the beginning of his status as a classic in art history. He creates unique abstract paintings that subversively resist clear interpretations in their thematic and material complexity. With the acquisition for the Wolfgang Hahn Prize, the Museum Ludwig will be the first public collection in Germany to obtain one of Bowling’s paintings, thus opening up the possibility of a deeper reception of his oeuvre. We are very grateful to Frank Bowling for his generosity,” says Mayen Beckmann, chairwoman of the Gesellschaft für Moderne Kunst.
Yilmaz Dziewior, director of the Museum Ludwig: “Since 2017, when I saw Frank Bowling’s exhibition Mappa Mundi at Haus der Kunst, I hoped to acquire one of his works for the collection of the Museum Ludwig. After all, a work like Flogging the Dead Donkey (2020), in which the spirit of American color field painting and British abstraction combine to form an incomparable, very independent position, represented a gap in our important and multifaceted collection of abstract tendencies. I’m delighted that we can now help bring Frank Bowling’s work the attention it deserves in Germany.”
Frank Bowling (b.1934, Bartica, Guyana) lives and works in London. He graduated from the Royal College of Art in 1962. As an artist and contributing editor for Arts Magazine in New York from 1969 to 1972, he made an early and significant contribution to debates on African-American art. Bowling was appointed Royal Academician in the United Kingdom in 2005, and was awarded both the Order of the British Empire in 2008 and a knighthood in 2020 for his services to the arts. Bowling’s work is represented in over fifty collections around the world, including the Menil Collection in Houston, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and Tate Britain in London. His art has been featured in many exhibitions, including solo exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York in 1971 and the Serpentine Gallery in 1986 as well as in the extensive solo exhibition Mappa Mundi (2017–2019) at Haus der Kunst in Munich, the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin, and the Sharjah Art Foundation. Tate Britain in London hosted a comprehensive retrospective of his work in 2019.
The Wolfgang Hahn Prize is awarded annually by the Gesellschaft für Moderne Kunst am Museum Ludwig, and is being presented in 2022 for the twenty-eighth time. The award is primarily intended to recognize contemporary artists who have already made a name for themselves in the art world through their internationally recognized oeuvre, but who are not as well known in Germany as they deserve to be. The prize money of a maximum of 100,000 euros comes from contributions by the members and is used to acquire a work or series of works by the artist for the collection of the Museum Ludwig. The prize includes an presentation organized by the Museum Ludwig with an acquired work by the prize winner as well as an accompanying publication.
The name of the award honors the memory of the passionate Cologne collector and painting restorer Wolfgang Hahn (1924–1987), who was involved in various ways with the art of the European and American avant-garde in Cologne. The Gesellschaft für Moderne Kunst is indebted to his exemplary work as a collector, a founding member of the Gesellschaft für Moderne Kunst, and the head of the restoration workshops at the Wallraf Richartz Museum and the Museum Ludwig.
The previous recipients can be found here.