The Igor Zabel Award for Culture and Theory acknowledges the exceptional achievements of curators, art historians, theorists, art writers, and critics whose work supports, develops or investigates visual art and culture in Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe.
The award is named in honour of the distinguished Slovenian curator and art historian Igor Zabel (1958–2005). It has been conferred biennially since 2008 in cooperation with ERSTE Foundation (Vienna) and the Igor Zabel Association for Culture and Theory (Ljubljana). With total prize money of €76,000, it represents one of the most generous and prestigious awards for cultural activities related to Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe.
This year Zdenka Badovinac, the curator, art writer, and director of Ljubljana's Moderna galerija has been is named the Igor Zabel Award laureate. On 4 December 2020, at the biannual ceremony in Ljubljana, Badovinac will thus be awarded for her outstanding institutional leadership as the director of the Moderna galerija/Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova (+MSUM) in Ljubljana, as well as for her radical curatorial work and significant contributions as a writer and editor to international discourses on the geopolitics of contemporary art in Eastern Europe and global art history. Igor Zabel Award Grants will also be given to Slavcho Dimitrov, Katalin Erdődi, and Ivana Bago.
The award comes at an interesting time for Slovenian cultural institutions, which are currently under threat of new staffing arrangements to promote the current government’s agenda, with some NGOs also losing their premises in Metelkova, Ljubljana’s cultural quarter. And it’s in this politically charged context that the Igor Zabel Award 2020 jury has recognized Zdenka Badovinac as one of the most important and rigorous locally rooted and globally connected professionals in the field of cultural production in recent decades.
Badovinac became the director of Moderna galerija in Ljubljana in 1993. According to the jury, since she was appointed to this post, and through her curatorial innovations, Badovinac has made Ljubljana's Moderna galerija into one of the most progressive, critical, and referential art institutions worldwide. The jury also emphasized Badovinac's important contributions to new paradigms in art theory, the politics of art, curatorship, practices of exhibiting, institutional critique, and strategies of solidarity within the (institutional) contemporary art field. Her remarkable achievements prove that the subversive potential for radical change lies not only in professional expertise, but also in combining this expertise with personal devotion, a sense of solidarity, and a commitment to building alliances.
This year's Igor Zabel Award Grant recipients selected by the jury are:
Slavcho Dimitrov (Skopje), activist, cultural theorist, and curator, in recognition of his contributions to reimagining the cultural and social life of the Western Balkan region, and for bringing LGBTQIA+ and women's rights and struggles to the heart of that vision.
Katalin Erdődi (Vienna/Budapest), curator, dramaturg, and cultural worker, in recognition of her locally embedded and inclusive curatorial practice, distinguished by its scope as well as its critically reflexive and joyful qualities.
The third grant recipient was selected by the laureate.
This year Zdenka Badovinac selected Ivana Bago (Zagreb), curator, art historian, and art writer, in recognition of her excellence and insistence on the art historical research, writing, and exhibiting of Yugoslav and Eastern European art.