Claim 2017, an art installation by Pope.L aka William Pope.L, winner of Whitney Museum of African Art Bucksbaum Award. Image: Whitney Museum.
NEW YORK, NY. —William Pope. L has won this year’s Whitney Museum Bucksbaum Award. Awarded each Biennial year to one participant in the show, the Award comes with it a $100,000 grant and a future exhibition at the museum.
Pope. L was selected from the sixty-three participant in the 2017 Whitney Biennial. Adam Weinberg, Alice Pratt Brown Director of the Whitney Museum of American Art explains Pope. L’s selection.
For almost four decades, Pope.L has challenged us to confront some of the most pressing questions about American society as well as about the very nature of art. We are thrilled that he is joining the illustrious group of American artists whom we have honored with the Bucksbaum Award.
Based in Chicago, Pope. L is well known for his performance art, videos, paintings, and interventionist public art. His entry for the 2017 Whitney Biennial was thought provoking. Titled Claim (Whitney Version), 2017, the installation included 2,755 slices of bologna. Although fresh when the piece was installed, the bologna became a smelly mess over the course of the show. They cured and leaked juice into the basins below the piece.
Each bologna was affixed with a photocopied picture of a New Yorker photographed at random. According to Pope. L, the 2,755 bologna slices with the pictures represent the percentage of Jews in New York. However, in a wall text next to a bottle of MD 20/20, the artist acknowledges that his methodology was deliberately skewed. “A bit off,” he explains.
Longtime Whitney Museum trustee Melva Bucksbaum and her family established the Bucksbaum Award in 2000. Melva Bucksbaum died in 2015. The Award has the main purpose:
[T]o “encourage an artist who has previously produced a significant body of work, whose project for the Biennial is itself outstanding, and whose future artistic contribution promises to be lasting, the Bucksbaum Award acknowledges an artist’s full spectrum of production: the past, present, and future.
Mary E. Bucksbaum Scanlan, the daughter of the prize’s namesake and a member of the Whitney Board, notes that the Bucksbaum Award is devoted to exceptional artists with lasting art practice. “The Bucksbaum Award recognizes extraordinary artists whose works are inventive, urgent, and promise to be enduring,” she said in a statement. She is excited that the award has continued the tradition of celebrating exceptional artists. “I am proud that this tradition continues with the first Biennial in the Whitney’s downtown home by honoring Pope.L, a singular artist in a class of his own.”
Past winners of the Bucksbaum Award include Zoe Leonard (2014), Sarah Michelson 2012, Michael Asher (2010), and Omer Fast among many others. The Whitney Museum of American Art is in the process of organizing a program devoted to Pope.L.