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Cobra Art Prize Amstelveen

The Cobra Art Prize encourages the contemporary art practice of an artist who translates the CoBrA philosophy into the present. Experiment, interdisciplinarity and radicality are at the heart of this legacy.

Cobra Art Prize Amstelveen

With the Cobra Art Prize Amstelveen, the Cobra Museum of Modern Art, together with the City of Amstelveen, highlights the values of the CoBrA movement and its role in contemporary art. Established in 2005, the prize is awarded every two years to a visual artist who creates innovative work that engages with the spirit of the CoBrA movement. The Cobra Art Prize Amstelveen is part of a long tradition of Amstelveen art prizes such as the Kunstaanmoedigingsprijs (Art Encouragement prize) from the City of Amstelveen and the Philip Morris Art Prize. Both of these prizes are part of the DNA of the Cobra Art Prize Amstelveen.



The price is composed of three parts:

  • a monetary award of €10,000
  • an exhibition at the Cobra Museum
  • a catalogue or publication accompanying the exhibition

Previous winners of the Cobra Art Prize Amstelveen have been Joost Conijn (2005), Johannes Schwartz (2007), Gijs Frieling (2009), Nathaniel Mellors (2011) Metahaven (2013) and Jennifer Tee in 2015. Recently it was announced that Christian Friedrich has won the 7th edition of the Cobra Art Price Amstelveen. His work will be shown in the Cobra Museum in the second half of 2017


Christian Friedrich wins the 7th Cobra Art Prize Amstelveen

  • “… a very experimental mind that is not prepared to compromise”: jury chair, Domeniek Ruyters.

By selecting Christian Friedrich (living and working in Amsterdam and Berlin), the jury honours an artist with a relatively hidden oeuvre. Friedrich operates close to the true underground. This modest visibility gives Friedrich the freedom to steer a totally idiosyncratic course, which, as subject matter, also touches on the mysterious, the uncomfortable and the shameful. Friedrich’s work is about questions of power and seduction, control and submission, in which each position is considered; that of the curator, the artist, and as his audience as well. When he presents his work in public, as in the Netherlands in 2014 at Haarlem’s De Hallen, it is by way of a compelling exhibition architecture that completely disarms the viewer and evokes a feeling of being no longer entirely free in their decisions and movements, as if the visitor has also submitted to the power game of the artist. It is partly that discomfort that has made Friedrich famous in art circles for works that are controversial, confrontational, and intangible. Their great diversity in forms of expression alludes to a human nature that sees its civilization reduced to a superficial, paper-thin layer on the verge of cracking. The tension can sometimes truly be cut with a knife.

Jury chair, Domeniek Ruyters: “With Friedrich, the jury honoured an artist who has shown his possession of an exceptionally experimental mind, which is not prepared to compromise. Each step he makes as an artist incorporates shock and the risk of failure. Not many artists with his track record are willing to do that”.

Christian Friedrich, Spectres of Want 2017. Courtesy of the artist.

Jennifer Tee wins the 6th Cobra Art Prize Amstelveen

  • Tee’s affinity with the Cobra legacy in the area of interest in folk culture, the multicultural character, the experimental working methods and the emphasis on materials makes her an appropriate winner of the prize.
  • The prize includes a monetary award, solo exhibition and publication.

Jennifer Tee (1973) was the winner of the 6th Cobra Art Prize Amstelveen. With the Cobra Art Prize Amstelveen, the Cobra Museum of Modern Art and the City of Amstelveen draw attention to the values of the CoBrA movement in relation to contemporary art practice. The values are experimental, engaged and interdisciplinary. Under the leadership of Saskia van Kampen, attached to the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, the jury stated: “Jennifer Tee has for years shown a unique multi-talent, applied with seemingly equal ease to profound choreography and to large-scale hanging sculpture. It is striking that, however coherent and layered her work is, it still remains accessible to a wide audience. The jury was unanimously in favour of awarding the 2015 Cobra Art Prize Amstelveen to the multidisciplinary artist, Jennifer Tee”.

Jennifer Tee received a prize consisting of a monetary award of €10,000, a solo exhibition at the Cobra Museum and a publication. The exhibition took place at the end of 2015.

More information here on the show The Soul in Limbo by Jennifer Tee

Jennifer Tee, overview of exhibition The Soul of Limbo

5th Cobra Art Prize; the choice of the Metahaven design collective emphasises the interdisciplinary character of the CoBrA movement

Metahaven, the design collective founded by Vinca Kruk and Daniel van der Velden, won the 5th Cobra Art Prize. It is the first time that the jury has selected a design collective. Xander Karskens, chairman of the jury, states: “Metahaven is the ultimate example of a design practice in which, in the spirit of CoBrA, the boundaries of disciplines are broken down, crossovers are pursued and artistry is critically deployed in society from a utopian perspective.”

Metahaven has been in the news in recent years due to its collaboration with WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. Metahaven is interested in the power structures that lie concealed behind the seemingly clear design of our digital environment. Van der Velden and Kruk are researchers and theoreticians as well as graphic designers. In their projects, there is no longer a distinction between these different activities.

Metahaven, Wikileaks Shawl

4th Cobra Art Prize 2011 won by Nathaniel Mellors

Nathaniel Mellors creates absurdist scripts, psychedelic theatre, films, videos, performance, collages and sculpture in which he tests the boundaries between meaning and incomprehensibility. A recurring theme in his multifaceted work is the complex relationship between language and power, which he incorporates in narratives that betray a penchant for satire and the grotesque. In addition to his visual work, Mellors also plays bass guitar in the Advanced Sportswear band and is co-founder of Junior Aspirin Records.

The prize was award to Mellors because of his completely unique visual world and the powerful impact that his work has on viewers. His inventive crossovers between visual art, music, theatre and text fit perfectly with the spirit of the multidisciplinary engagement of the CoBrA artists.

The 2011 jury consisted of Dominic van den Boogerd (director De Ateliers in Amsterdam), Xander Karskens (curator De Hallen in Haarlem), Saskia van Kampen (curator Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam) and Katja Weitering (artistic director Cobra Museum of Modern Art in Amstelveen).

Cobra Art Prize Amstelveen 2009: Gijs Frieling

Gijs Frieling (1966) has in recent years earned a completely unique position in the painting world. Inspired by such diverse sources as folk art from Hindeloopen (NL) and the work of Donald Judd, he creates not only small paintings on canvas but also large-scale murals, often with a team of assistants. This collective working method is an important part of Frieling’s approach to painting.

Some people recognise a restorative agenda in Gijs Frieling’s work. Others see it as a harbinger of new developments, in which community and spirituality are key concepts. However one approaches Frieling’s work, with his pronounced reflections on art and artistry, the painter invites discussion about the function of the artist in today’s society, about the value of tradition and innovation, about iconography and universal imagery and about expression and aspiration – questions that he not only poses as a painter, but also as director and programme manager of the W139 artist collective in Amsterdam.

The jury was inspired by the sensual beauty of Gijs Frieling’s work and excited by the unusual artistic concepts that underpin it. Just as the CoBrA painters rejected the then-prevailing mores in art, Gijs Frieling is an exceptional artist who swims against the tide.

The jury for this year’s prize consisted of:

Dominic van den Boogerd (director De Ateliers), chairman
Hedwig Fijen (director Manifesta)
Xander Karskens (curator De Hallen)

Cobra Art Prize Amstelveen winner 2007: Johannes Schwartz

Johannes Schwartz takes photographs but does not adhere to the mores of photography. He works with graphic designers and architects and presents his work in ever surprising forms.
Schwartz’s artistic career took off in 1998 with his photographs of interiors and exteriors of children’s huts, followed by photos of interiors inhabited by blind people, psychiatric treatment rooms and hunting hides (2002). In this and subsequent series, he works according to a fixed pattern: the subject is first determined and then explored further. Although the interior photographs are records of a situation as it is encountered, they give the impression of being carefully staged constructivist arrangements. The ‘Blindenzimmer’ series shows photographs of rooms inhabited by blind people. Schwartz presented the living rooms as if he was exploring them by touch with the camera. ‘Rembrandt’ (2005) shows the empty space on the museum wall where the Night Watch had been removed, a kind of random painting with an empty hole that seems to provide a view of an abstract and endless expanse.

Johannes Schwartz toys with the conventions of appearance and disappearance and their narrative dimensions. Photography as a means of representing different possible realities. Johannes Schwartz created a wall installation for the Cobra Museum with a theme of exhibiting and viewing art.

Publication: On the occasion of the exhibition, Schwartz produced a publication from the ‘High Series’, in collaboration with the Experimental Jetset design collective.

Joost Conijn winner of the first Cobra Art Prize Amstelveen

Artist Joost Conijn (1971) was the first winner of the Cobra Art Prize Amstelveen. This important prize in the field of visual art is awarded every two years to a visual artist living in the Netherlands who creates innovative work and seeks out experimentation.

The starting point for Joost Conijn’s work is his fascination with other worlds. Travel and a lust for adventure are in his blood. Each journey is a continuous linking of unforeseen events. Travelling in vehicles that he builds himself, the artist makes contact with local people. He captures his adventures on video.

The Cobra Art Price Amstelveen is generously supported by the Amstelveen City Council.

The board of the Cobra Art Prize foundation consists of: art collector Marieke Sanders-ten Holte, architect Mels Crouwel, legal and financial adviser Eelco Dijk and the business director of the Cobra Museum Els Ottenhof.

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