Australasian artist Jen Valender named Australian winner in M&C Saatchi Group and Saatchi Gallery’s Art for Change Prize initiative
Ahead of Cop28, when the world will be focused on one of the most urgent issues of our time, M&C Saatchi Group and Saatchi Gallery have announced the six regional winners of their annual international art initiative, Art for Change Prize, which invited emerging artists from around the world to creatively respond to the theme of ‘Regeneration’ for the chance to win a grand prize of £10,000. Jen Valender from Melbourne has been recognised for her work Sediment and Artist as Animal.
This year’s climate-focused prize celebrates the power of global creativity to transform the conversation around the climate emergency. The six winning artworks open a conversation to examine this topic from different global perspectives, look to create new stories of a liveable future, and empower individuals and entities to act. It’s a call to action for meaningful change, recognising that there is no art on a dead planet.
The total number of entries increased by 20% from last year, totalling 3,000, from artists based in 130 countries, with over 56% of them developing nations from within Latin America, Africa, Asia and Oceania. Climate related disasters are considerably increasing inequalities and injustices that already exist in the world. Meanwhile cuts to arts education funding, coupled with pre-existing structural barriers, such as unpaid internships and low wages, has meant that opportunities for students and under-represented groups to interact with contemporary art have been significantly reduced. The prize was launched as part of a shared mission by M&C Saatchi Group & Saatchi Gallery to break down barriers to entry in the creative industry and enable people across the globe to choose art and creativity as a career choice.
A winner from each M&C Saatchi key global region (UK, Europe, Americas, Asia, Australia, and Middle East & Africa) has been carefully selected by some of the best business and creative minds from M&C Saatchi Group globally and a special selection of eminent guest judges.
M&C Saatchi and Saatchi Gallery are proud to announce the six regional winners:
• Australia Winner – Jen Valender from Melbourne, Australia for her work Sediment and Artist as Animal
• Americas Winner – Ingrid Weyland from Buenos Aires, Argentina for her work Topographies of Fragility XXXV and Topographies of Fragility XXXVI
• Asia Winner – Haining Wang from Beijing, China for her work Molt
• Europe Winner – Alina Zamanova from Kyiv, Ukraine for her work Our Children are Fighting too
• Middle East & Africa Winner – Chibuike Ifedilichukwu from Anambra, Nigeria for his work Equality State
• UK Winner – Natasha Botelho Cook from London, England for her work The Garden of Dried Roses
Each winner in this non-for-profit initiative will receive a cash prize. The total prize fund of £20,000 will be split between the six regional winners, five to receive £2,000 each and one overall winner, due to be announced at the exhibition launch on the 29th November 2023, to receive £10,000. Additionally, all artists’ winning works will be exhibited in a dedicated exhibition at Saatchi Gallery, an iconic platform for contemporary art, from 30th November 2023 until 7th January 2024.
The overall winner will be selected by a Grand Jury lead by Chair of Judges, Justine Simons, London’s deputy mayor for culture and creative industries and founder and chair of the World Cities Cultural Forum, alongside Saatchi Gallery director, Paul Foster, and one M&C Saatchi Group judge from each region. The winner will be announced on 29th November 2023.
Says Patrick Guerrera, CEO at Re (part of M&C Saatchi Group): “It was an absolute privilege to judge this prize, as I was exposed to some of Australia’s most extraordinary artists, creating works around a theme that is so critical in these times. It was hard to choose a winner but Jen Valender’s evocative films were so emotionally expansive, that she was our clear choice in the end.”
Jen Valender is an Australasian artist who was born in Aotearoa New Zealand and is based in Naarm Melbourne. Her practice and research investigate methods that compress complex experiences, histories and ethical dilemmas into simple gestures through projection, moving image, sound, sculpture and performance. Grounded in the cinematic, she is inspired by material conditions, conceptual paradoxes, poetic problematics and a resolute blurring of the art/life dichotomy.
Says Claire Bridge, fellow judge and founder of Art World Women: “Selected from an outstanding field of entries, Jen Valender’s enigmatic work grapples with the dilemmas and challenges of current times with authentic and poetic elegance. Inviting, spacious and attending to slow reveal, Valender extends models of cooperative collaboration beyond the human, and offers new possibilities for hope and regeneration. I was enthralled by the depth and breadth of entries across our region and commend the compelling work by Trawlwoolway artist Edwina Green, Linda Sok, Ryan Andrew Lee and Luke Conroy.”
Says Emma Robbins, national executive creative director for M&C Saatchi: “It was an honour to judge with Pat and Claire across another collection of incredibly emotive and thought provoking work, created by incredibly talented and inspirational artists.”
Says Foster: “The diversity and quality of works created by the regional winners of the Art For Change Prize this year take the breath away. These winning works remind us that contemporary artists have something important to express about how we live that is relevant to all of us. Someday soon, a work will emerge about the climate crisis that will have the same impact in the 21st century as Guernica did about war in the 20th century.”