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Summer Exhibition 2017 prizes announced

Published 4 July 2017

Filmmaker and installation artist Isaac Julien wins the prestigious £25,000 Charles Wollaston award for the “most distinguished work” in the Summer Exhibition.

  • London-born Isaac Julien is among the artists and architects honoured in this year’s Summer Exhibition awards, it was announced today.

    Each year the Royal Academy awards over £50,000 in prizes for every category of work in the Summer Exhibition. Julien was awarded the £25,000 Charles Wollaston prize, awarded annually for the “most distinguished” work in the Summer Exhibition. The Wollaston is the largest single award and one of the most significant art prizes in the country, won in previous years by Rose Wylie RA, David Mach RA and Wolfgang Tillmans RA.

    Julien is a Turner Prize nominee who was born in east London in 1960 to St Lucian parents. He studied at Central Saint Martins School of Art and came to international prominence with his 1989 drama-documentary Looking for Langston, focusing on the life of Langston Hughes, an American poet and activist. Over the last two decades, Julien has concentrated on making work for museums and galleries. He is renowned not only for his visually rich films, but also for their innovate installation, creating an immersive experience for the viewer.

  • Isaac Julien, Western Union

    Isaac Julien , Western Union .

  • Julien’s winning Summer Exhibition entry is the five-screen film WESTERN UNION: Small Boats; the concluding part of his Expedition Trilogy. A contemporary take on Visconti’s film The Leopard, (both are set in Sicily), WESTERN UNION: Small Boats intercuts scenes of opulence with transcontinental migration.

    The baroque architecture and the sea and landscape are beautifully realised and seductive to the eye, while the narrative highlights the complexities and failures of modern civilization and world politics. Created in 2007, this marks the first time that the work is installed on five screens.

    Other prizes awarded include the Jack Goldhill Award for sculpture, won by Eva Rothschild RA’s What We Know, and the ARUP’s Architecture Award for Emerging Talent, won by Yuji Tanabe’s Flower Apartment.

    Nigel Tonks, Group Leader Buildings London, Arup, said: “Amongst the entries from young and emerging practices, Tanabe’s restrained drawing for Flower Apartment speaks closely to the curator’s aim of architecture as an instruction-based art. This elegant piece works as a drawing and a model, depicting boundaries and scale in an engaging way.”

    The judges for this year’s award were Richard Wilson RA, Hannah Firth and David Harsent.