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The international art world has its own version of the Oscars. Here are this year’s winners

EPA/Juan Carlos Hidalgo
Bosch in Madrid
  • Anne Quito
By Anne Quito

Design and architecture reporter

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

In this season of glittery awards shows, the art world has its own version of the Oscars.

While the Global Fine Arts Awards (GFAA) gala is a far cry from paparazzi-magnet Hollywood award shows—no pop stars, no crazy fashion, no statuettes—there was plenty of genius to celebrate during the Feb 11 affair at the National Arts Club in New York City. As GFAA’s founder Judy Holm explained, “This is about honoring the best productions—like the ‘films of the year’.”

Like big production crews in Hollywood, ambitious art exhibitions also involve a global cast of curators, historians, designers, handlers, insurers, publicity experts, funders and lawyers. The star of the night was 15th century Dutch artist Hieronymus Bosch, whose exhibitions in the Netherlands and Spain shared the prize for best Renaissance show and the GFAA’s version of the People’s Choice Award.

“Ten years ago, the exhibition seemed impossible,” said Charles de Mooij, director of the Het Noordbrabants Museum whose acceptance speech outlined the herculean effort that went into the retrospective. The small museum in Bosch’s hometown made news last year when it managed to reunite many of Bosch’s surviving work for a blockbuster exhibition attended by over 422,000 visitors.

EPA/Koen Van Weel
Bosch comes home.

Some 40 volunteer academics, researchers, curators and patrons helped shape this year’s GFAA program. The judging panel includes James M. Bradburne, director of the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan, historian Barbara Aust-Wegemund and Dean Phelus of the American Alliance of Museums. Nominees are judged against four criteria: exhibition design, public appeal, historical significance and education value.

Having visited some 300 art exhibitions last year, Holm says she hopes the awards will expand the usual roster of destinations for art lovers. While famous museums such as New York City’s Met and Los Angeles’s J. Paul Getty each received two awards, 60% of the nominated exhibitions come from smaller art institutions. Over 25% highlight the work of female artists.

Of the 78 finalists from 22 countries, here are the best curated art exhibits and installations of 2016:

Best Contemporary / Post-War – solo artists
Rauschenberg in China, Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA), Beijing, China

Best Contemporary / Post-War – group or theme
Revolution in the Making: Abstract Sculpture by Women, 1947–2016 , Hauser Wirth Schimmel Gallery, Los Angeles, US

EPA/How Hwee Young
“Rauschenberg in China” at the the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art Beijing

Best Impressionist / Modern – solo artist
Degas: A New Vision, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia and Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Houston, US

Best Impressionist / Modern – group or theme (tie)
The Lost Symphony: Whistler and the Perfection of Art, Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Galleries, Washington DC, US
Jewel City: Art from San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition, de Young Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, San Francisco, US

John Tsantes, Smithsonian Freer / Sackler
“The Lost Symphony: Whistler and the Perfection of Art” at the Smithsonian’s Freer/Sackler Gallery in Washington, DC

Best Renaissance, Baroque, Old Masters, Dynasties – solo artist
Jheronimus Bosch – Visions of a Genius, Het Noordbrabants Museum, Den Bosch, Netherlands and Jheronimus Bosch. The 5th Centenary Exhibition, Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain

Best Renaissance, Baroque, Old Masters, Dynasties – group or theme
Traversing the Globe through Illuminated Manuscripts, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, US

Best Ancient Art
Pergamon and the Hellenistic Kingdoms of the Ancient World, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, US

EPA/Filippo Venezia
Christo’s “Floating Piers”

Best Public Art
Christo and Jeanne-Claude: The Floating Piers, Lake Iseo, Lake Iseo, Italy

Best Design
Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, US

AP Photo/Jocelyn Noveck
Metropolitan Museum’s “Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology”

Best Photography
Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium, Los Angeles County Museum of Art and The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, US

Best Fringe / Alternative
Susan Philipsz: War Damaged Musical Instruments, Tate Britain, London, England

Youniversal Award (Most popular exhibition, selected through through an open public poll)
Jheronimus Bosch – Visions of a Genius, Het Noordbrabants Museum, Den Bosch, Netherlands and Jheronimus Bosch. The 5th Centenary Exhibition, Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain

Now on its fourth year, GFAA is the art world’s only international survey of best curated exhibitions, says Holm who is a 25-year veteran of the arts and culture PR industry. She blames the joyous but uncoordinated array of channels—museums, galleries, auction houses, fairs, biennales—that has stymied previous attempts at a global awards program for the entire international art industry.

While trade publications like venerable Apollo (the world’s oldest visual arts magazine) have their own annual awards (Apollo crowned Noordbrabants’s Bosch exhibition as exhibition of the year); Art & Auction and ArtReview publish a yearly “Power 100” issue, magazines typically don’t have time for the independent, committee-based vetting process that GFAA follows.

Time or budget-strapped art enthusiasts can check out GFAA’s archive of one-minute montages summarizing the best exhibitions of the last three years.

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