Function: Max Mara Art Prize for Women

By Jo Phillips

A high-end fashion company supporting women artists and their endeavors can only be a good thing.

Founded in 1951 by multi-hyphenate Achille Maramotti, the eponymous Italian fashion group Max Mara is presently one of the largest women’s ready-to-wear companies in the world, spanning across cultures and geographies with 2462 stores in more than 100 countries.

The Max Mara Art Prize for Women is a biannual project led by Max Mara in collaboration with the Whitechapel Gallery and Collezione Maramotti, known most notably for being the only visual arts prize for women in the United Kingdom. The Prize aims to provide female artists who have not previously had a solo survey exhibition with a nurturing, and by turns, stimulating, environment in which they may realize their ambitions.

Along with the prestige of such a title, the winner of the Max Mara Art Prize for Women is gifted with a six month artist residency in Italy, specifically tailored to their artistic practice and submitted proposal, which they were required to put forth to a jury chaired by Whitechapel Gallery Director, Iwona Blazwick, as part of their application.

Emma Hart Edited Photograph - Article

On the 3rd of February 2016, London-based artist Emma Hart was announced as the sixth recipient of this prestigious award, out of a shortlist including Ruth Ewan, Ana Genovés, Tania Kovats and Phoebe Unwin. As enthused as she was gracious, Hart said she was “truly delighted to have won this prize” for it gave her the time and space to create work in a focused manner which, she explained, normally evades her. “I can concentrate, experiment and fully immerse myself in new ideas and methods. I have also never really left London, so six months in Italy will be the adventure of a lifetime”, Hart humbly continued.

Hart’s lauded proposal, rich in traditions surrounding family and marked by a distinct Italian ethos, sought to explore the power of the family through symbols, possessions and objects, offering audiences a visual mapping of the highs, lows and everyday realities of family life. This year, Hart’s much anticipated body of work will be shown in a solo exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery in London before being presented at the Collezione Maramotti in Reggio Emilia, Italy.

With the Whitechapel Gallery having housed the works of such creative heavyweights as Picasso, Cindy Sherman, Frida Kahlo, Nan Goldin, Pollock and Rothko, to name a few, Hart’s proposed work was to be welcomed into the history books before its heralded exhibition in 2017 – much like the works created by the Prize’s previous winners, namely, Corin Sworn (2013-15), Laure Prouvest (2011-13), Andrea Büttner (2009-11), Hannah Rickards (2007-2009), and Margaret Salmon (2005-2007).