2017 “Jewish Nobel” awarded to celebrated artist Anish Kapoor

“Turning the World Upside Down,” by Anish Kapoor (2010), Israel Museum, Jerusalem; photo via WikiMedia Commons.

The Genesis Prize Foundation has named Anish Kapoor the 2017 Genesis Prize Laureate.

Kapoor is one of the most influential and innovative artists of his generation. His works include ‘Turning the World Upside Down’ at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, ‘Cloud Gate’ in Chicago’s Millennium Park and the ‘Orbit’ in London. Kapoor also created the Holocaust Memorial for the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in London and the 70 candles for Holocaust Memorial Day in Britain in 2015, commemorating 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

Kapoor won the Turner Prize in 1991 and received a knighthood in 2013. He was born in Bombay to a Baghdadi Jewish mother and Indian father. At 16, he moved to Israel and has been based in the United Kingdom since the 1970s.

Beyond his contributions to the arts, Kapoor has a long history of social activism and a commitment to social justice. For many years, he has been a public advocate for the cause of refugees and an outspoken advocate for displaced people everywhere. Recently he visited Syrian refugees in the Za-atari refugee camp, as part of UNICEF’s art therapy program, which is intended to help children who have witnessed atrocities to express themselves through art.

Established in 2012, the annual Genesis Prize has been dubbed by Time Magazine as the “Jewish Nobel.” Previous laureates are Michael Bloomberg, Michael Douglas and Itzhak Perlman.

The prize comes with a $1 million award, which in the past has been matched with additional contributions from other philanthropists, including $2 million in 2015 and 2016 from Roman Abramovich.

It has become a tradition for the Genesis Prize Laureates to direct the $1 million award, as well as matching funds contributed by other philanthropists, to meaningful causes they feel passionate about. During the last three years, almost $10 million has been raised to support philanthropic initiatives of the Genesis Prize Laureates.

The Laureates also commit to yearlong engagement initiatives developed jointly with the Genesis Prize Foundation. In the past, these have included causes ranging from support of social entrepreneurship based on Jewish values, inclusiveness of intermarried families in Jewish life, and improving the lives of individuals with special needs.

Kapoor will use his $1 million award – and the global platform provided by the Genesis Prize – to help alleviate the refugee crisis and try to expand the Jewish community’s engagement in a global effort to support refugees. More than 12.5 million Syrians have been displaced during the current conflict, of which around 2.5 million are children.

In announcing the award, Stan Polovets, Chairman and co-founder of the Genesis Prize Foundation, said: “The profound impact of Anish’s work continues a long history of Jewish contribution to the arts, while his social activism reaffirms the commitment of the Jewish people to humanitarian causes. We particularly admire how, in an age frequently characterized by cynicism and indifference, Anish continually advocates for the world’s disadvantaged – challenging all of us to do more to help wherever and whenever we can.

Anish’s commitment to alleviate the plight of Syrian refugees will resonate with the Jewish community, especially young Jews, everywhere.”

Further details on Kapoor’s “re-gifting” program will be announced by June 2017.

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