IT’S well understood that world famous vodka brand, Absolut, is one of the most respected premium vodkas on the market. But what might be less known is that the Swedish brand is also a longstanding patron of the arts. Throughout the 1980s, ‘90s and early 2000s, the company commissioned artists to create adverts that incorporated the iconic Absolut bottle.
Names as renowned as Keith Haring, Louise Bourgeois, Francesco Clemente, Chris Ofili, Subodh Gupta and Rosemarie Trockel collaborated with the company, not to mention Andy Warhol, who was the first artist Absolut worked with in 1986. The company’s diverse collection of art, built up over the past three decades, can now be found at the Spritmuseum in Stockholm.
In 2009 the Absolut Art Award was launched to celebrate diverse artistic practices. A few years later, in 2013, the Absolut Art Award for Art Writing became an additional component of the prize, so that writers as well as artists could be honoured. As Saskia Neuman, Global Art Manager and Director of the Absolut Art Award, explains, “The Absolut Art Award offers an artist and an art writer the opportunity to realise their dream projects without commercial restraints.”
This year’s winners are German artist Anne Imhof, who earlier in the spring was presented with the prestigious Golden Lion Award at the Venice Biennale, and the American writer Huey Copeland, who is a prolific critic as well as a professor of art history at Northwestern University.
Copeland, who recently accepted his award in person at a lavish ceremony hosted by Absolut in Stockholm, comments that the Absolut initiative “underlines how much art writing matters both for the making of histories to come and for defining the major artistic interventions of the present. That is just what I’ve aimed to do throughout my work, which focuses on how difference matters to conceptualizations of the aesthetic in the modern West.”
Copeland will use his prize money to complete his book Touched by the Mother: On Black Men and Artistic Practice, 1966-2016, which examines the meaning of black masculinity in art of the last 50 years. “This is a dream project, to be sure,” he continues, “and it would only be possible in its ideal form with Absolut’s support.”
by Derby Jones