Genesis Prize IMAGINE Competition Engages Emerging Artists

 logo_imagine-e1441741866158Competition for the Genesis Prize award trophy design draws submissions
from 19 countries exploring artistic expressions of Jewish values

“My design was inspired by the geometrics prototype of [Einstein’s] Theory of Relativity”
from China;

“This trophy design is titled Freedom. It is inspired by the flag of Israel”
from Cote D’Ivoire;

“The androgynous being pictured illustrates the conception of creation in Judaism”
from France;

“The Tree of Gold with its strong roots is a metaphor for the Jewish peoples’ steadfastness and perseverance in maintaining their roots and culture, despite the many hardships they have faced historically… The tree is a symbol of strength that will stand tall regardless of whatever the weather may bring”
from Pakistan;

“Rocks are descriptive of a refugee”
from Ireland;

“I don’t know about Jewish [sic], but I did read about Jewish life, religion and family education when I was in junior high school”
from Indonesia;

“The ram, in the Torah, is the unsung hero… We blow music into the horn of the ram. Breath of man makes divinity capable where it previously did not exist”
from the USA;

“I prize the resilience and solidarity of the Jewish population as one of its biggest values. Facing death in so many forms, yet surviving as a whole is evidence of incredible strength”
from the UK.

What do all of these quotes have in common? These are just a few samples of descriptions received from student and emerging artists around the world who chose to share their designs – and vision – for the Genesis Prize award trophy.

Established in 2012, The Genesis Prize is a global initiative designed to celebrate Jewish identity and achievement. The Genesis Prize Foundation works to foster a sense of pride in being Jewish among young Jews worldwide, aiming to set them on a journey of discovery and re-connection with their identity.

With this objective in mind, the Genesis Prize Foundation (GPF) formed a new initiative in 2015 titled IMAGINE: The Genesis Prize Design Competition. The Foundation asked young artists and designers around the world to submit ideas for an iconic trophy design that could represent the Foundation’s mission, and potentially be produced as the Genesis Prize Award, which is presented each year in Jerusalem along with a $1 million prize.

While GPF expected to receive submissions from young artists in the some Jewish communities in North America and Israel, the Foundation did not expect to see so many impressions of Jewish life and values from around the world – even from one entrant who claimed to never have met a Jewish person before. There were designs ranging from ram’s heads, to trees, to abstract forms representing themes of Jewish benevolence and community.

What started as a design competition, evolved into a virtual conversation of images of descriptions from across the globe of what it means to be a Jew in the modern world today. In initiating the competition, GPF was reinforcing the belief that art is one of the means of communication and dialogue that transcends borders.

Attracting a crowd

This was done not without the support of big names in the arts community. GPF recruited a world-class jury of 20 international judges from the US, UK, Israel, Sweden, Denmark, Russia and Canada. Tate Gallery Chairman Lord John Browne chaired the Selection Committee, while Pushkin Museum Co-Chairman and Genesis Prize Foundation co-Founder Peter Aven served as deputy chair. Other prominent members of the Jury included MoMA Director Glenn D. Lowry, Whitney Museum Director Adam D. Weinberg, Garage Museum Founder Dasha Zhukova, and New York Jewish Museum Director Claudia Gould (A complete list of Jury members is available here). With a global panel, GPF succeeding in attracting submissions from young artists in 19 countries.

“We were impressed with the quality of designs that were submitted by student and emerging artists for IMAGINE: the Genesis Prize Design Competition,” said Sir Nicholas Serota, Director of the Tate in London and a member of the Selection Committee. “It was interesting to see the diverse talent from around the world participate in such a competition, which sheds light on the topic of Jewish culture and its unique perspectives. I congratulate the Genesis Prize on the outcome of this creative challenge.”

Jewish values: young artists’ interpretation

Designs submitted to IMAGINE attempted to explore an artistic expression of Jewish values. Interestingly enough, many submissions came from countries that have small or non-existent Jewish communities.

“The Jury received projects from China, Indonesia, Pakistan, Peru, South Korea and Finland, to name just a few,” says Julian Olidort, executive secretary of Genesis Prize Committees who managed the competition. “We were very inspired by such a response, from Jews and non-Jews alike.”

“It is interesting to see artists from different cultures reacting to a call to produce a design that represents a fairly complex message,” says Maxyne Finkelstein, the Foundation’s chief of staff. “The design we were looking for had to represent a modern prize for unique achievement, relevant for young people in the 21 century. And it had to reflect on the essence of the Prize that celebrates the millennia-old values of the Jewish people. We saw artists offering a look into the future of the ancient Jewish nation that continues to thrive, to be open and creative… And this is precisely what the Genesis Prize itself celebrates.”

Ultimately, a common refrain in many designs was the strength of the Jewish people through diversity. This also happened to be the subject of the winning design, produced by London-based Yoni Alter. Alter’s winning design for which he won the $10,000 prize, is titled “Higher and Higher” and consists of ascending crystal glass pillars. The pillars are separate, yet when seen from above they form the Shield of David.

“Higher and Higher” by Yoni Alter
“Higher and Higher” by Yoni Alter

“Like the pillars, Jews seem to differ from each other,” said Yoni Alter. “Yet, when we stand together, we create a circle of strength and inspiration. The pillars of the prize rise higher and higher, for their cause; keeping the basis strong and stable. The Shield of David is neither a wall nor an obstacle; it is a star that lights the path open to all of pure heart and good intentions.