Foundation for Contemporary Arts (FCA) Announces the Establishment of The Helen Frankenthaler Award for Painting

Thursday, January 9, 2020
Foundation for Contemporary Arts (FCA) Announces the Establishment of The Helen Frankenthaler Award for Painting

This annual grant is supported by a multi-year gift from the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation in memory of the artist, who was an early contributor to FCA. The $40,000 award is made annually through Grants to Artists to an individual demonstrating Helen Frankenthaler’s passion for innovation and experimentation in painting.

Image: Helen Frankenthaler in her studio, Stamford, CT, 1983. Courtesy to Helen Frankenthaler Archives, New York. Photograph by Cora Kelley Ward. 


Foundation for Contemporary Arts (FCA) is pleased to announce the creation of The Helen Frankenthaler Award for Painting, a new $40,000 award in memory of the artist Helen Frankenthaler, one of FCA’s early supporters. Presented to an individual artist demonstrating Frankenthaler’s passion for innovation and experimentation in the medium, this annual grant is underwritten by the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, and administered through FCA’s distinguished Grants to Artists program. The inaugural Helen Frankenthaler Award for Painting will be made to New York-based artist Kerstin Brätsch.

Helen Frankenthaler (1928-2011) is celebrated as one of the foremost abstract painters of the 20th century, with a daring and inventive creative practice that played a pivotal role in the transition from Abstract Expressionism to Color Field Painting. Known for her signature “soak stain” technique, the artist helped expand the possibilities of painting. Frankenthaler once said, “Anything is possible. It is all about risks, deliberate risks.” Her experimentation in painting—as well as in other mediums including printmaking, ceramics, and sculpture—continued throughout her prolific six-decade-long career.


 Helen Frankenthaler in her studio, Stamford, CT, 1983. Courtesy to Helen Frankenthaler Archives, New York. Photograph by Cora Kelley Ward. 


“Helen Frankenthaler was an early supporter of the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, contributing The Face of the Landscape [acrylic on paper, 1965] to our 1965 benefit exhibition,” said Cecily Brown, a Director of the Foundation for Contemporary Arts. “This meaningful award manifests FCA’s founding mission—by artists, for artists. We are honored to partner with the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation to celebrate Frankenthaler’s ground-breaking work through this eponymous award, which will recognize artists like her, whose practices push boundaries in the medium of painting. 

The inaugural recipient of The Helen Frankenthaler Award for Painting, Kerstin Brätsch, evokes Frankenthaler’s pioneering spirit in her own practice.”

"Helen would like nothing better than to see us supporting artists who carry on her pioneering approach to art making—and her adventurous spirit. FCA gives us the perfect opportunity to support new generations of visual artists," said Clifford Ross, Chair of the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation’s Board of Trustees.

Added Elizabeth Smith, Executive Director of the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, “We’re thrilled the inaugural Helen Frankenthaler Award for Painting will support an artist like Kerstin Brätsch, who continues to advance the practice of painting.”

The Helen Frankenthaler Award for Painting will be made annually through FCA’s signature Grants to Artists program. Established in 1993, Grants to Artists provides significant, unrestricted assistance to individual artists in all disciplines through a confidential, two-part nomination and selection process. Once a year, a group of artists and arts professionals are invited to serve as nominators. A separate selection panel reviews nominations and chooses grantees on the merit of their work and the effect such recognition and support might have at that point in their careers.

Born in Hamburg but based in New York for over a decade, Brätsch’s practice oscillates between a conceptual analysis of the medium and a devotion to painterly processes. Through collaborative projects and the use of artisanal practices (stained glass, paper marbling, Stucco Marmo), she challenges the definitions of painting and authorship. As her anonymous nominator wrote: “Brätsch’s rigorous artistic practice distinguishes her among her peers. Through her paintings, she has contributed to an expanded definition of the work of art; as well as to the vitality of collaborations in the field of contemporary art.”

“It is a tremendous honor to receive an award in the name of Helen Frankenthaler, whom I consider to be an important role model for a younger female painter,” stated Brätsch. “She was a true visionary, a radical inventor and fearless experimenter, a hugely influential painter to the generations that followed...My own attitude to art-making at large, and in particular the role of experimentation in my practice, is profoundly indebted to Helen Frankenthaler.”

The recipient was selected by the Directors of the Foundation for Contemporary Arts: Cecily Brown, Anne Collier, Anthony B. Creamer III, Anne Dias, Jasper Johns, Jennie C. Jones, Julian Lethbridge, Dean Moss, Emily Wei Rales, and James Welling. The Directors were joined in this year’s grant selection process by the following panelists: art historian and author Bettina Funcke; musician Jenny Lin; Curator at The Kitchen Matthew Lyons; and playwright, director, and New York City Players Artistic Director Richard Maxwell. Advising the selection committee on the Poetry category were poet and writer David Henderson and poet Ann Lauterbach.

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 Victoria Zhivotneva, “Atocha. Madrid”, 2020

Victoria Zhivotneva, “Atocha. Madrid”, 2020


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