Artist Yoko Ono shakes hands with Austrian Minister of Science Karlheinz Toechterle after being awarded the Oskar-Kokoschka-Prize for her lifework as artist in Vienna

On Thursday 1 March 2012, artist Yoko Ono won the 2012 Oscar Kokoschka prize, Austria’s highest award for applied contemporary art.

The Oskar Kokoschka prize, named after an Austrian painter who died in 1980, is awarded every two years to a contemporary artist and is worth 20,000 euros (26,600 dollars).

By awarding Yoko Ono the Oskar Kokoschka Prize 2012, the jury acknowledges her distinguished artistic career as a whole and her clear sociopolitical positioning, explains jury chairman Gerald Bast.

The Tokyo-born artist ranks amongst the most important representatives of the Fluxus movement and was a pioneering figure in the avant-garde New York art scene as a filmmaker, composer of experimental music, and vocalist.

In 1962, Yoko returned to Japan for two years, where she drew attention with her numerous solo exhibitions and performances. From 1964-1966, and 1972 onwards, she lived in New York once again.

“Wall Piece for Orchestra” or “Cut Piece” are two of her most exciting and memorable concept art projects.

In 1972 and 1987, she participated in the documenta in Kassel.

In 2008, the Kunsthalle Bielefeld organised a retrospective exhibition on her work.

At the Venice Biennale 2009, she was awarded the Golden Lion, the highest recognition for a living artist.

Time and again, she causes a furore with large-scale actions for the benefit of world peace and compliance with international human rights. Her commitment to the recognition of same-sex partnerships, her political statements, and her artistic work make the music and concept artist an extraordinary personality – and not only in the art scene.

Yoko Ono lives and works in New York.

The artist was selected for the Oskar Kokoschka Prize 2012 by a jury consisting of Dr. Gerald Bast (chairman, rector of the University of Applied Arts Vienna), Univ.-Prof. Brigitte Kowanz (representative of the Senate of the University of Applied Arts Vienna), General Secretary Mag. Friedrich Faulhammer (represented by MinR Dr. Peter Seitz, representative of the BM:UKK – Austrian Federal Ministry for Education, Arts and Culture), Mag. Olga Okunev (representative of the BM:UKK), em.o.Univ.-Prof. Arch. Mag.arch. Hans Hollein (president of the Austrian Arts Senate, indisposed on short notice due to illness), Karola Kraus (director of the Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig), Prof. Dr. Erwin Melchardt (representative for media coverage on art), Mag. Eva Blimlinger (rector of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna), Dr. Klaus Albrecht Schröder (director of the Albertina, represented by Dr. Antonia Hoerschelmann), and Univ.-Prof. Dr. Daniela Hammer-Tugendhat (University of Applied Arts Vienna, head of the Art History department).

With this decision, the jury honours Yoko Ono as “an exceptional artistic personality who is not only one of the most important members of the Fluxus movement but also of the utmost topicality given, in particular, her transdisciplinary approach in artistic production. Her multimedia artistic work, which is connected by an ideology-critical red thread, ranges from film to experimental music, concept art to performance. In her work, Yoko Ono links the pursuit of artistic innovation with the assertion of art’s efficacy in society, which is convincingly evidenced in her political engagement for peace and human rights.”

The prize – established by the Austrian Federal Government in 1980 on the occasion of the death of the painter Oskar Kokoschka, born 1886 in Pöchlarn – is awarded to a visual artist every two years in recognition of his or her artistic work. The Oskar Kokoschka Prize is one of the most important awards for visual art in Austria, bestowed to a national or also international artist. The first prize was given to Hans Hartung in 1981; since then Mario Merz, Gerhard Richter, Siegfried Anzinger, Agnes Martin, Jannis Kounellis, John Baldessari, Maria Lassnig, VALIE EXPORT, Ilya Kabakov, Günter Brus, Martha Rosler, William Kentridge, and Raymond Pettibon, in 2010, have received this distinction.

The presentation of the Oskar Kokoschka Prize by the Federal Minister of Science and Research and organised by the University of applied Arts Vienna took place – in accordance with the statutes – on March 1, the birthday of Oskar Kokoschka.