press release

venue: Stedelijk Museum

Prix de Rome Visual Arts 2019: Rory Pilgrim
19.10.2019 - 22.03.2020

Work by nominees Sander Breure & Witte van Hulzen, Esiri Erheriene-Essi, Femke Herregraven, Rory Pilgrim

Commissioner: Mondriaan Fund


Rory Pilgrim wins 2019 Prix de Rome

Artist Rory Pilgrim (Bristol, 1988) received the Prix de Rome 2019, the oldest and most prestigious award in the Netherlands for artists under the age of 40, from the Dutch Minister of Education, Culture and Science, Ingrid van Engelshoven, in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen Máxima. Pilgrim received this award for his new film The Undercurrent (2019-ongoing). The award comes with a 40,000 EUR cash prize and a work period at the American Academy in Rome.

The international jury unanimously selected Rory Pilgrim, an artist who has shown himself as a master in making films that combine cinematography, music, content, form and topicality. In the fifty-minute film The Undercurrent he transports the visitors to the world of a group of young people in the American city of Boise (Idaho). The film features beautiful cinematography, wonderful music, and is meticulously edited. Furthermore, the artist raises a number of topical issues in the film. Initially, climate change appears to be its most important theme, but gradually it becomes clear that the young people have other problems too. Central to this film is a house that appears to function as a sanctuary for the main characters. The concept of the sanctuary is also used for the protection of nature. In this way, the film is hinting at a subtle connection between the earth that needs attention and protection, and the young people who need a home for intimacy, security and their future. The result is a disarming portrait of the insecurities, hopes and expectations of a generation, and what’s more a film that gives the young people an opportunity to address themselves directly to the viewer. The jury greatly appreciates how the artist has engaged with this group and also values his intention to continue the collaboration in other ways.

Rory Pilgrim lives and works in Rotterdam and Isle of Portland. Pilgrim studied Fine Art at the Chelsea College of Art and Design, London (2005-2008) and was a participant at De Ateliers, Amsterdam (2008-2010). Rory Pilgrim was nominated by Anke Bangma and Louwrien Wijers.

The other nominees for this year’s Prix de Rome besides Rory Pilgrim were Esiri Erheriene-Essi, Femke Herregraven and the artist duo Sander Breure & Witte van Hulzen. All finalists were judged on the basis of new work realised during a five-month work period. The exhibition with the work of the nominated artists will be on show at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.

The jury for the 2019 award consists of Lonnie van Brummelen (visual artist, winner Prix de Rome 2005), Amira Gad (artistic director Lehmann Maupin, London), Peter Gorschlüter (director Museum Folkwang, Essen), Yasmijn Jarram (curator GEM, The Hague) and Frank Koolen (visual artist). Chair without right to vote is Valentijn Byvanck (director Marres, House of Contemporary Culture, Maastricht).

The final presentations by Sander Breure & Witte van Hulzen, Esiri Erheriene-Essi, Femke Herregraven and Rory Pilgrim can be viewed until March 22, 2020 at Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.

The 2019 Prix de Rome is accompanied by a publication that focuses on the nominee’s work. This publication includes essays by Sacha Bronwasser, Maarten Buser, Brenda Tempelaar and Sophia Zürcher. (Jap Sam Books, Dutch/English, design: Lesley Moore, ISBN 978-94-92852-16-8, 144 pages)

Prix de Rome
The Prix de Rome dates back to 1808 when Louis Napoleon introduced the Prix de Rome in the Netherlands to promote the arts. Although the award has regularly been renewed, the aim is still to trace talented visual artists and encourage them to develop and increase their visibility. Since 2013, the Mondriaan Fund has been responsible for the award.