Doris Salcedo has taken many hammers at the physical world, mainly floors, and one in particular, that rocked the contemporary art world in 2007. When the Colombian sculptor created a giant rift in the Turbine Hall of Tate Modern, London, with her work “Shibboleth,” she rose to prominence as one of the world’s most conceptual and visually visceral artists.
More recently, in 2017, Salcedo raised the hammer again, this time, accompanied by dozens of women from across Colombia, victims of sexual violence of the country’s internal conflict. The commissioned work (one of three monuments agreed-upon in the Final Accord between the government of President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC), became the floor tiles of the Ministry of Culture’s new installation space at the heart of Bogotá’s historic La Candelaria district. Fragmentos, name given the permanent space of the artist’s metal floor, was created from some 8,900 decommissioned war materiel of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla.
Salcedo’s uncompromising stance on socio-political realities from migration and racial segregation in Shibboleth to her “counter-monument” to Colombia’s peace in Fragmentos, the Bogotá-based artist received November 1 the world’s largest endowment for the visual arts, which consists of a US$1 million cash prize.
Known as Nomura Art Award, Salcedo is the first artist to receive the prize from Nomura Holdings, a Tokyo-based bank and financial services company. At the announcement ceremony in Shanghai, China, Salcedo thanked the jury with a sense of “overwhelming humility and gratitude,” emphasizing that “producing projects capable of honoring the experience of victims of violence requires a large investment in time and organization, sometimes with many collaborators.”
The jury that determined Salcedo as the winner of the prize includes Max Hollein, director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Yuko Hasegawawa, artistic director of Tokyo’s Museum of Contemporary Art and Nicholas Serota, chair of Arts Council England. Speaking on behalf of the jury, Nicholas Serota said: “For more than thirty years, Doris Salcedo has been making sculptures and installations that capture the anguish associated with the loss of loved ones, and preserve the memory of traumatic events in the long civil war in Colombia. However, her language has empathy and her materials an everyday character that give her work a universal meaning that speaks to people across the world.”
Taking on subject matter that generates deep emotional responses among audiences is characteristic of Salcedo’s artistic career, and one, deeply cemented in the Colombi- an consciousness. “I hope to prove that it is possible to produce art and creativity, something beautiful and poetic, in Colombia, and give diversity back to my people,” said Salcedo during a press briefing.
Following the trail of human migration, Salcedo is currently researching her next art project and one that deals with the on-going tragedy of Venezuelan refugees streaming into Colombia along the porous border. “Because of this award, I am now able to move ahead much more quickly than I had expected,” remarked Salcedo, emphasizing that her work is also inherently political. “You have to respond to what’s happening in the world in a responsible way. If I didn’t address these issues in my work, nobody would,” said Salcedo from China. The artist also regretted that Colombia is a country with a violent past and remains associated with negative perceptions in the world caused by drug trafficking.
Currently exhibiting works at Fragmentos (Cra 7 No.6B-30), are artists Clemencia Echeverri with her video art installation Duelos, and Felipe Arturo with Anti-Balas.