Sculptor Sir Anish Kapoor was named on Monday as this year’s winner of the million-dollar Genesis Prize, awarded for commitment to Israel and Judaism, organizers said.
British-Indian Kapoor “is one of the most influential and innovative artists of his generation”, they said in a statement.
He won the prestigious Turner Prize in 1991 and was knighted in 2013.
“As inheritors and carriers of Jewish values it is unseemly for us to ignore the plight of people who are persecuted, who have lost everything and had to flee as refugees in mortal danger,” the Genesis statement quoted Kapoor as saying.
“I am an artist, not a politician, and I feel I must speak out against indifference for the suffering of others. There are over 60 million refugees in the world today – whatever the geography of displacement, the refugee crisis is right here on our doorstep,” he was quoted as saying.
“To lose one’s home, one’s land, one’s sense of belonging, is bewildering. All that is left is one’s body … how long before – for so many – even that is lost?
“I believe that in the current political climate the world over, it is more important than ever that we continue to stand against the abhorrent government policies that are an offence against our ethics and the very tenets of what it means to be human. As Jews, we must question whether this reality is closer to home than we might like, and we must condemn the exclusionist policies and politics of the government that claims to represent us.”
“Outsider consciousness resides at the heart of Jewish identity and this is what motivates me, while accepting the honour of the Genesis Prize, to re-gift the proceeds to refugee causes,” Kapoor said.
“Kapoor will use this award, and the global platform provided by the Genesis Prize, to raise awareness of the plight of refugees in order to engage the Jewish community in a global effort to help alleviate the refugee crisis,” the Genesis statement said.
The award is granted by the Israeli government, the quasi-governmental Jewish Agency and the Genesis Prize Foundation.
“It recognizes individuals who have attained excellence and international renown in their fields and whose actions and achievements express a commitment to Jewish values, the Jewish community and the State of Israel,” the statement said.
Last year’s winner was virtuoso Israeli-American violinist Itzhak Perlman. Other past laureates include former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and US actor Michael Douglas.
Kapoor, whose huge works of public art are landmarks in cities from London to Chicago, was born in Bombay, now Mumbai, in India in 1954 to a Hindu father and a Jewish mother.
Genesis said the million-dollar award has in the past been swollen by matching funds from other donors which go to laureates’ projects.