Intended as a leg-up for young graduates who have studied the visual arts and media art at a Swiss art school, the award first launched in 2004 underscores Helvetia’s long-standing commitment to Swiss art. The prize is reserved for young artists just at the start of their career and while the focus of Helvetia's own collection of contemporary Swiss art – which incidentally counts among the most important of its kind – is on painting, drawing, and photography, the Helvetia Art Prize is not restricted to those disciplines. Its purpose is to bring the ideas and art forms of the next generation of artists to the public’s attention. The Helvetia Art Prize comes with prize money of CHF 15,000 as well as the chance to stage a show at the international art fair LISTE – Art Fair Basel.
Gina Proenza (*1994) holds a Bachelor’s degree in "Visual Arts" from the Haute Ecole d’Art de Lausanne. Her prize-winning presentation is an amalgamation of works in different media. The starting point is the story of a Colombian village, which was founded by fleeing slaves in the 17th century and which remained undiscovered for a long time. The inhabitants shared not only their own culture but also the "Palenquero" language. The artist has a particular flair for storytelling and has succeeded in conveying her narration convincingly in scenographic format. She opens up spatial, narrative and even olfactory experiences, and is highly adept at implementing individual genres both in conceptual and visual terms. The jury also appreciated the worldliness of the questions she raised. Her work is promising, and the Art Prize is intended to make a substantial contribution to promoting her artistic development.
The prize-giving ceremony was held on 11 April 2018 at the Helvetia Art Foyer in Basel. The commendation speech was given by Peter Stohler, Director of the Kunst(Zeug)Haus Rapperswil.
This year's Helvetia Art Prize jury comprises Peter Bläuer (Director of LISTE – Art Fair Basel), Raffael Dörig (Director of Kunsthaus Langenthal), Ines Goldbach (Director of Kunsthaus Baselland), Olivier Kaeser (Co-Director of Centre Culturel Suisse, Paris), Andreas Karcher (Head of the Helvetia Art Department), Nathalie Loch (Curator of the Helvetia art collection) and Peter Stohler (Director of Kunst(Zeug)Haus Rapperswil).