Meet The Six Female Artists Shortlisted For The Max Mara Art Prize For Women

After what has been a bad week (to put it mildly) regarding treatment of women in the creative industries, here’s something to restore a little faith in the world again in the form of the Max Mara Art Prize for Women. The prize, established by the Whitechapel Gallery in collaboration with the fashion group in 2005, aims to promote and support female talent that is all too often stifled in favour of their male counterparts.

“For many years women artist had worked under the radar.” says Iwona Blazwick OBE, Director of the Whitechapel Gallery and one of the prize’s judges, “but due to this great prize, artist of different generations have been given the opportunity to spend formative months exploring Italy; and the resources to create a major new commission that situates them on the world stage”. That’s right, the winning artist, announced early next year, will be awarded a six-month residency at locations around Italy, where they will develop a project to be shown in major solo exhibitions at Whitechapel Gallery in London and Collezione Maramotti in Reggio Emilia, Italy. Here, we introduce you to the six women shortlisted for the prize…


Athena Papadopoulos

For many, the idea of staining your pristine, Egyptian cotton sheets with red wine, mustard, Pepto-Bismol and shoe polish is enough to give oneself mild cardiac arrest. Not so for Athena Papadopoulos. Why? They all share a connection to the body, and together with appropriated imagery, Papadopoulos perverts ideas of domesticity and comfort. No stranger to a collage either – Papadopoulos questions the construction of subjectivity by isolating, enlarging and hashing together imagery taken from literature, art history and popular culture.

Helen Cammock

Film, photography, writing, poetry, spoken word, song, print-making, installation – you name it, Helen Cammock does the lot. And very well too – no better demonstrated than her 2016 film There’s a Hole in the Sky Part II; Listening to James Baldwin – a continuation of a previous project that looked at crumbling vestiges of colonialism in Barbados – this work imagines a conversation with the legendary author to consider the forced and voluntary migrations of Black American writers and dancers who travelled to Europe in search of prosperity. Simply put, Cammock specialises in the telling of stories that enrich our understanding of the world around us.

Céline Condorelli

Everyone needs support. A relative, a lover, a friend, wine – the point is, support comes in many different guises, and that’s exactly what Céline Condorelli is interested in. Given the complete lack of theory or critical thought on what we mean when we talk about ‘support’, Condorelli decided she’d fill in the gaps with her work, Support Structures, where writers, thinkers and practitioners come together to flesh out the theoretical framework. It’s there when you need it.


Eloise Hawser

Heard of ‘fatbergs’? No? Lucky you. They are the giant masses of congealed fat, nappies, tampons and condoms that clog up our city’s sewers. Yum! They have captured the imagination of Eloise Hawser – from Bazalgette’s 19th century sewer system to the Thames Tideway Super Sewer project, Hawser’s new exhibition at Somerset House next year, By the deep, by the mark charts attempts throughout the ages to reclaim the Thames as a space of leisure, not industry. Found objects are important for Hawser and often form the centrepiece of her works like Lives on Wire, her show at the ICA in 2015, where Hawser re-purposed a resistor mechanism from an old cinema organ to produce rainbow strobes that filled the gallery. Pretty.

Lis Rhodes

Lis Rhodes has been renowned for her phenomenal film making, which, since the 1970s, has challenged and stretched our perception of the medium as a means of communication. Bear with us here. Dresden Dynamo a film she made in 1971, presents a series of images that are played in perfect harmony with an analogue soundtrack. It’s essentially like looking inside the mind of a synaesthesiac – monotone sounds take on shapes and patterns, which in turn reflect the soundtrack. Go watch it on YouTube.

Mandy El-Sayegh

How does a part relate to the whole? How does the micro relate to the macro? These are the questions that inform the work of Mandy El-Sayegh. Drawing on found materials that are usually imbued with a domestic practicality, her works are layered together with imagery and written text that provides detailed introspection whilst surrounded by deeper context. Be sure to check out some of her stunning Arabic calligraphy works.

The winner of the Max Mara Art Prize For Women will be announced in January 2018

1.Athena Papadopoulos, installation view, Belladonna’s Muse at BASEMENT ROMA, 2017
2. Helen Cammock, Moveable Bridge, 2017
3. Eloise Hawser, 100, k, eV, 2014

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