Frank Bowling and 2022 Wolfgang Hahn Prize

Portrait Frank Bowling. Photo: Sacha Bowling

Frank Bowling is the recipient of the 2022 Wolfgang Hahn Prize. The awards ceremony will take place on November 15, 2022, at 6:30 pm, the day before Art Cologne. The decision was taken by a jury that included Zoe Wheatley, director of the Chisenhale Gallery in London, and the board members of Gesellschaft für Moderne Kunst:

  • Mayen Beckmann (chairman);
  •  Gabriele Birbaum;
  •  Sabine DuMont Schütte;
  •  Yilmaz Dzevior (gallery director of the Museum Ludwig);
  •  Jörg Engels (treasurer);
  •  and Robert Müller-Grünow.

Guest jury member Zoë Wheatley announced the selection of the 2022 Wolfgang Hahn Prize laureate that the peerless paintings and critiques of Frank Bowling are nothing more than a reimagining of the possibilities of painting over the past six decades.

The Wolfgang Hahn Prize is awarded annually to the Gesellschaft für Moderne Kunst am Museum Ludwig and is presented for the twenty-seventh time in 2021. The prize is primarily intended to reward contemporary artists who have already made a name for themselves in the art world with their globally recognized works, but who are not as famous in Germany as they deserve. The prize fund of up to € 100,000 comes from contributions from participants. It is used to purchase a work or series of works by the artist for the collection of the Ludwig Museum.

The Wolfgang Hahn Prize 2021 recognizes a decisive and uniquely innovative figure in the history of abstract peerless painting. With life experiences in Guyana, the United Kingdom, and the United States, Bowling’s art preserves history in pigments, waxes, and gels. With unmatched monochrome watercolor painting and material sensibility, Frank Bowling sets rules for himself in the studio, which he invents, adheres to, and then breaks, followed by a series of entirely new rules and parameters for the image plane. His complex thought process, embodied on canvas, meets a long tradition of painting in an invariably dynamic manner.

Thanks to the artist’s generosity, the 2022 Wolfgang Hahn Prize will be the first acquisition of one of his peerless paintings for a public collection in Germany.

The title of Bowling’s painting “Flogging the Dead Donkey” (2020) is a loud phrase about monochrome watercolor paintings. This was done over and over again, like whipping a dead donkey.

“Flogging the Dead Donkey” (2020) Frank Bowling

And yet the title of this monochrome watercolor painting is ironic because, in this and other works, Bowling took painting in a new direction. He encountered the practice of monochrome watercolor painting in his early years in New York, starting in 1966 when he worked with the works of Ed Reinhardt, Barnett Newman, Clifford Still, Marcia Hafif, and Mark Rothko, each of whom experimented with monochrome painting and her options.

The overall composition of Bowling’s peerless painting is a tribute to previous generations of colorists. The complexity of the surface texture and the extraordinary intensity of the red tones, as well as light flashes of other colors and the remnants of gold pigments, are unique. This late black and red canvas, which illustrates Bowling’s continued fascination with color and geometry, brings to life his dictum that “the possibilities of color are endless.”

The artist gained recognition for his work at the end of a long career and early in his status as an art history classic. Frank Bowling creates unique peerless abstract paintings that subversively resist clear interpretations of their thematic and material complexity. With the award of the Wolfgang Hahn Prize, the Ludwig Museum will be the first public collection in Germany to receive one of Bowling’s peerless paintings, opening the door to a deeper appreciation of his work.

Yilmaz Dzevior, director of the Ludwig Museum, said that since 2017 when he saw Frank Bowling’s Mappa Mundi exhibition at Haus der Kunst, he had hoped to acquire one of his works for the Ludwig Museum’s collection. He also added that such work as Whipping a Dead Donkey (2020), in which the spirit of American color field painting and British abstraction combine to form an incomparable, highly independent position, represents a gap in this important and multifaceted collection of abstract trends.

An artist and contributing editor for Arts Magazine in New York

Frank Bowling (* 1934, Bartika, Guyana) lives and works in London. He graduated from the Royal College of Art in 1962. Being an artist and editor of Arts Magazine in New York from 1969 to 1972,  Frank Bowling made an early and significant contribution to the debate about African American art.

Bowling was appointed Royal Academician of the United Kingdom in 2005 and was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 2008 for his service to the arts. In 2020, he was knighted in honor of the Queen’s birthday.

Bowling’speerless paintings are represented in more than fifty collections around the world. They are shown in Menil Collection in Houston, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Tate Britain Gallery in London.

His black and red canvas art has been featured in many exhibitions, including solo exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York in 1971 and at the Serpentine Gallery in 1986, as well as in the extensive Mappa Mundi solo exhibition (2017–2019) at the Haus der Kunst in Munich, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin; and Sharjah Foundation for the Arts.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here