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Virginie Sistek wins the 2024 Helvetia Art Prize

Virginie Sistek (born in 1999), a graduate of the Art Nature Gender master’s programme at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland in Basel, wins the 2024 Helvetia Art Prize. The Art Prize, which is being awarded for the twenty-first time this year, is intended as a leg-up for young artists. It is endowed with prize money of CHF 15,000 and the chance to stage a solo show at LISTE Art Fair Basel.
13.03.2024 | Media releases

The 2024 Helvetia Art Prize goes to Virginie Sistek (born in 1999). The award winner is a graduate of the Art Nature Gender master’s programme at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland in Basel. Virginie Sistek’s artwork examines social phenomena and the resulting power structures. The artist places a particular focus on the topic of domestication. Based on specific situations, her installations, performances and videos address the question of what creates consensus or disagreement between individuals. She is interested in forms of subjugation and their self-legitimisation over time and explores ways of resisting these automatisms. Virginie Sistek manages to convey pressing social issues to her audience with humour and empathy. She is able to recount stories that are compelling due to both their social relevance and their subversion.

A tale of power struggles and their inevitable failure
Virginie Sistek created the ‘Resurrection Ranch’ installation to mark the annual Plattform24 exhibition, which provides an insight into the work of young artists in Switzerland. This piece, which fills an entire room, critically examines the domestication and exploitation of female horses on so-called blood farms, where mares are subject to almost continuous forced pregnancy. Various hormones are extracted from these mares and are then used in both livestock farming and human medicine. The title of her work refers to the cyclical dynamics of repetition that are inherent in this power structure. Two large-format sculptures made of wood and sackcloth symbolise the bodies of mares. These stand awkwardly in the exhibition space, providing visitors with a clear sequence of movement through the area, thanks to their monumentality. Small pill-shaped objects resembling blood-sucking horse flies hang from the rectangular bodies of the horses. These stylised horseflies refer to the conflict between artificial and natural extraction. The work can never be viewed in its entirety and as a whole, but only in parts and while passing through it: a misshapen fabric leg with denim hooves here, a horse’s tail made of corrugated cardboard there. The feeling of disorientation is further increased by the sound of buzzing flies, thereby reversing the power struggles between humans and animals in certain ways. Virginie Sistek regards her work as a kind of homage to the memory of these mares, exhausted by their fertility – and, in a broader sense, also to their bodies exhausted by exploitative systems.
2024 Helvetia Art Prize jury
This year’s Helvetia Art Prize jury comprises Peter Bläuer (LISTE Art Fair Basel), Stefanie Gschwend (Kunstmuseum/Kunsthalle Appenzell), Nadia Veronese (Kunstmuseum St.Gallen), Maja Wismer (Kunstmuseum Basel) and Nathalie Loch (Helvetia’s Art Department).
A leg-up as part of its commitment to art
With the Art Prize, Helvetia Insurance supports young artists at the beginning of their career. The Helvetia Art Prize is therefore aimed at diploma students or graduates of Swiss universities specialising in fine art and media art. The prize provides a double leg-up: on the one hand, Virginie Sistek receives prize money of CHF 15,000 and, on the other hand, the opportunity to present her work to an international specialist audience and the general public with a solo exhibition at LISTE Art Fair Basel 2025. Since being founded in 1996, LISTE has been committed to actively promoting galleries and artists in the young and middle generations.
Helvetia Art Prize – a 20-year history
The Helvetia Art Prize is a key aspect of the international insurance group’s commitment to art. The prize has been awarded annually since 2004. Initially known as the Nationale Suisse Art Prize, it has been called the Helvetia Art Prize since the merger of Helvetia and Nationale Suisse. Helvetia, which also insures art, has one of the most important collections of contemporary Swiss art, stretching back 80 years. The collection focuses on paintings, drawings and photography. Since 2015, Helvetia has also had its own public exhibition space, the Helvetia Art Foyer at its headquarters in Basel. This features either themed exhibitions with works from its own collection or solo showcases by various artists.
10 March to 14 April 2024
Opening hours:
Tuesday to Saturday: 2 – 5 pm
Sunday: 11 – 5 pm
Kunstmuseum Appenzell
Unterrainstrasse 5
9050 Appenzell

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