(JTA) – Artist Anish Kapoor was named the winner of the 2017 Genesis Prize on Sunday, Feb. 5. He joins Itzhak Perlman, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and actor-director Michael Douglas as recipients. Known as ‘the Jewish Nobel’, the Genesis Prize is awarded by the Genesis Prize Foundation in partnership with the Office of the Prime Minister of the State of Israel and the Jewish Agency for Israel. 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. Kapoor said he will use his $1 million award to help alleviate the Syrian refugee crisis and try to expand the Jewish community’s engagement in a global effort to support refugees.
Kapoor has been called one of the most influential and innovative artists of his generation. His works include “Turning the World Upside Down” at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, “Cloud Gate” in Chicago’s Millennium Park and the “Orbit” in London. Kapoor also created the Holocaust Memorial for the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in London and the 70 candles for Holocaust Memorial Day in Britain in 2015, commemorating the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Kapoor won the Turner Prize in 1991 and received a knighthood in 2013. He was born in Bombay to a Baghdadi Jewish mother and Indian father. At 16, he moved to Israel and has been based in the United Kingdom since the 1970s.
The artist has a long history of social activism and a commitment to social justice. For many years, he has been a public advocate for the cause of refugees and an outspoken advocate for displaced people around the world. “Jewish identity and history have witnessed recurring conditions of indifference, persecution and Holocaust. Repeatedly, we have had to repossess ourselves and reidentify our communities. As inheritors and carriers of Jewish values it is unseemly, therefore, for us to ignore the plight of people who are persecuted, who have lost everything and had to flee as refugees in mortal danger. Outsider consciousness resides at the heart of Jewish identity and this is what motivates me, while accepting the honor of the Genesis Prize, to re-gift the proceeds to refugee causes,” Kapoor said in a statement.
Natan Sharansky, chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency and head of the Genesis Prize selection committee, said: “Throughout our history, the Jewish people suffered not only from active and violent antisemitism, perpetrated by a minority, but also from the indifference of the majority. It is this indifference that made persecution, massacres and the Holocaust possible. Anish Kapoor has campaigned against indifference his whole life. His message is clear, powerful, and inspiring.”