A Quick Look at the New Foundation's $100K Prize For U.S.-Based Women Artists

The Seattle-based New Foundation recently announced a new $100,000 prize—dubbed the 100K Prize—for a U.S.-based woman artist in "honor of her exemplary artistic achievements" and with it, the prize's inaugural winner, Martha Rosler. The New Foundation will issue the 100K Prize every two years. 

A closer look suggests this isn't exactly your typical artist award.

According to the New Foundation's press release, "the 100K Prize is a new initiative that builds on the philanthropic interests of the Foundation's founder, Shari D. Behnke: supporting artists, empowering women, and catalyzing social change." We'd like to draw your attention to that last phrase.

The new grant is the latest in a line of foundation grants and awards honoring artists whose work addresses issues of social justice. The terminology may vary slightly—the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation has its "Artist as Activist" fellowship, while A Blade of Grass is looking for artists who are "conduits for social change"—but the gist is the same. Foundations seem eager to support artists and organizations who move the dial on pressing social issues. 

Which brings us to Ms. Rosler. As the foundation notes, she emerged in the late 1960s with a series of photomontages called House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home, in which she inserted images of the Vietnam War into advertising pictures of pretty American living rooms and kitchens. She later revisited the theme in a follow-up series on the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those two series will be exhibited in 2016 at Seattle Art Museum as part of the prize.

As for the New Foundation, it was founded by philanthropist and art collector Shari D. Behnke in 2012 and is dedicated to advancing contemporary art in Seattle by providing educational resources, professional opportunities, and unrestricted capital. Specifically, it offers three support programs:

  • The Artist Program, which helps Seattle-based visual artists at critical stages of their creative lives by enhancing visibility and curatorial support of their work.
  • The Funding Program, which makes grants to individuals and Seattle-based institutions of higher education with visual art MFA programs.
  • The Host Program, which aims to facilitate relationships and open new opportunities for artists and curators by, among other things, inviting up to four established curators to Seattle for short-term visits.

And as for the foundation's 100K Prize, there's an old adage that the best predictor of future events is past actions. If so, don't be surprised if more awards honoring artists whose work has shown a commitment to social justice emerge in the coming months.