The Female Gaze: This Photographer Who Seeks to Change Perceptions on Women is the First La Prairie Art Award Winner - Arts & Culture

The luxury skincare house partnered with Art Gallery of New South Wales for this honor.

Progressive photographer-artist Atong Atem, who originally comes from South Sudan but is now based in Melbourne, has won the inaugural La Prairie Art Award.

READ ALSO: Art Archives: For La Prairie, The Work Of Demystifying Piet Mondrian Continues

Atem and her works was selected from a group of eight Australian female artists by a jury composed of La Prairie and Art Gallery of New South Wales executives.

The artist celebrates her Ethiopian and South-Sudanese heritage in exquisite works capturing a heightened beauty of both her male and female subjects. These images challenges traditional depictions of African women, styling her subjects with rich and dramatic adornments that heighten their timeless beauty.

On receiving the La Prairie Art Award, Atem says she is grateful and honored to be the inaugural recipient of the award.

“I am enormously proud to win an award dedicated to contemporary Australian women artists, especially knowing how many remarkable women artists there are working in Australia today,” Atem says, adding she is thankful to have the opportunity to take her work abroad and create new avenues for her career.

“A yellow dress, a bouquet 2022,” is Atem’s new series created as a result of the La Prairie Art Award. It is a sequential self-portrait consisting of five photographs in which Atem appears in close-up, her face brightly painted.

In this work, Atem gestures toward the tropes of classical western paintings traditions, through the postures she assumes and the symmetry of the sequence, while maintaining what she refers to as a “decidedly African, postcolonial aesthetic style” through an emphatic use of color and texture.

The works will enter the permanent collection of the Art Gallery of NSW from March 15. Works will be on display for two weeks on the ground floor of the Art Gallery of NSW and will be shown an additional six weeks from April 9 to May 22 in the public gallery.

Art patron

The La Prairie Art Award developed in conjunction with Art Gallery of New South Wales strengthens La Prairie’s ongoing commitment to the arts, with a particular focus on championing female artists.

The award is a partnership between the skincare house and Art Gallery of New South Wales, and is continuation of La Prairie’s commitment to the world of art. It has previously worked with such prestigious events as Art Basel and organizations such as Fondation Beyeler.

“Since the inception of La Prairie, contemporary art, through a plethora of genres, cultures and profiles, has been an elevated prism in which to tell our story,” according to Greg Prodromides, La Prairie’s chief marketing officer.

He says that this latest endeavor was a natural and authentic one to support female artists and a better gender equity within the local Australian art scene.

“Atem’s approach to portrait and beauty brings a rich, daring and wholly unique perspective to our brand,” Prodromides continues. “Not only does she connect intimately with our mission to push the boundaries of beauty, her talent also allows a better understanding of the essence of what is beautiful.”

Senior curator of contemporary Australian art at Art Gallery of New South Wales Isobel Parker Philip says that the award is an incredible opportunity.

“Supporting living artists is of primary importance to us as an institution,” she says. “This new award recognizes the dynamic and critical work being done by contemporary Australian artists.

They enthusiastically welcome the award’s focus on female practitioners, Parker Philip says, which reinforces our commitment to gender equity in the arts. “The La Prairie Art Award will be transformational for its recipients; encouraging their ambitions and their enabling their practice to grow into new directions. We are thrilled by this partnership and excited to see it develop,” she says.  

The La Prairie Art Award is delighted to acquire the artist’s work for the Art Gallery collection and offers the Award recipient an international residency.

As part of the award Atem will travel to Zurich, Switzerland, in June 2022 and attend the Art Basel international art fair and an exhibition of the newly launched Piet Mondrian exhibition at Fondation Beyeler as a VIP guest of the Swiss luxury house. The residency allows artists the opportunity to be inspired and further their practice within Europe.

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