The annual award, which comprises two prizes of 30 000 Swiss francs (approximately R325 000) each, is given to artists exhibiting as part of Statements – Art Basel’s sector for young and emerging artists. Wa Lehulere’s work is being presented at Statements by Johannesburg's Stevenson Gallery.
The prize also includes the acquisition by Bâloise of a group of works by the award winners, which are donated to two important museums in Europe: currently the Hamburger Kunsthalle and the MUMOK (Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig), in Vienna.
The prize was shared by Wa Lehulere and Jenni Tischer of Germany.
The jury characterised Wa Lehulere’s work as follows: “In his work Kemang Wa Lehulere explores questions of collective memory and seeks to uncover the traces of South African history. To this end, he not only uses the devices of revealing and writing down but also of wiping out text and pictures. His wall-sized drawings, installations, performances and photographs establish a link between the trauma and myths of South Africa’s past and contemporary social issues. Wa Lehulere's works may be read as an archive, which demonstrates the process of forgetting and, like a collage, simultaneously opens avenues to new narratives that encourage multiple interpretations.”
The 29-year-old Wa Lehuler lives in Johannesburg. He has held solo exhibitions at Lombard-Freid Projects, New York (2013); Stevenson, Johannesburg (2012); the Goethe-Institut, Johannesburg (2011) and AVA, Cape Town (2009). Important group shows include My Joburg at La Maison Rouge, Paris (which will open on June 21); The Ungovernables, the second triennial exhibition of the New Museum, New York (2012); and A Terrible Beauty is Born, the 11th Lyon Biennale (2011).
Wa Lehulere was a co-founder of the Gugulective, an artist-led collective based in Cape Town, and a founding member of the Centre for Historical Reenactments in Johannesburg. He won the inaugural Spier Contemporary Award in 2007, and the MTN New Contemporaries Award in 2010.