And the winner is…

FOS, 2017. Photo: Henrik Jauert

About the prize

The ARKEN Art Prize is donated by the Annie & Otto Johs. Detlefs’ Philanthropic Foundation. The art prize is awarded to a contemporary artist or group of artists, who has stood out significantly with a unique artistic contribution in the international contemporary art scene.

The prize is awarded for artistic input, which through its high international level and global vision particularly contributes to the development of the experimental, innovative and debate-generating contemporary art. ARKEN Art Prize is a personal mark of honour, to be used as the prizewinner wishes. The prize cannot be applied for, and is worth DKK 100,000.




FOS, Osloo, The Venice Biennale, 2011. Photo: FOS


The Danish artist Thomas Poulsen alias FOS is nationally and internationally acclaimed for his uncom­pro­mi­sing works that explore the intersections between architecture, design, art and per­for­mance. The artwork itself may be a camping caravan, a soap factory, the furni­shings of a fashion store, a concert programme or a floating bar. In works that combine functionality with popular appeal, FOS explores how our physical sur­­roundings and social relations influence one another. His works take their point of departure in what he calls ‘social design’. The works all have in common that they reach out into society and every­day life.

FOS is awarded the ARKEN Art Prize 2017, because of his critical social investigations of the ordinary life that unfolds between physical spaces and social situations. Based on his concept of ‘social design’ his experimental art disrupts our habitual thinking about what art is and should be.


Cyprien Gaillard

Cyprien Gaillard, The Recovery of Discovery (Installation view), 2011. Foto: Josephine Walter


The French artist Cyprien Gaillard navigates between geographical locations and psychological states in his works, which investigate the traces of the human in nature and the beauty of decay. In particular, the atmospheric contrast between colossal architecture and nature interests the artist. He says himself that he is “interested in things failing, in the beauty of failure, and the fall in general”. In an artistic interaction between romantic emotion, a rigorous minimalist aesthetic and a fascination with destruction he draws on everything from painting and sculpture to video and performance.

Cyprien Gaillard received the ARKEN Art Prize 2016 because in a challenging and intelligent way he creates seductive, critical and thought-provoking art experiences that make us think about the human imprint on the world. Cyprien Gaillard elegantly involves both his own time and history in his works and makes us wiser about ourselves and the world we live in.

Danh Vo

Danh Vo, Lick me, lick me, 2015, Photo: Stephen White


The Danish-Vietnamese artist Danh Vo’s works sometimes recall jigsaw puzzles. The individual elements can be assembled like the pieces of a puzzle into a totality, but the totality and thus the overall narrative can also be split up. The latter is the case in the work We the People from 2012, which is a 1:1 copy of the Statue of Liberty in several hundred parts spread and displayed around the world.

Precisely the fragmentary form of the work is a point, which Danh Vo associates with the funda­mental plight of modern humanity. Danh Vo uses his own history, for example by involving family members in his works in various ways, but he does so in a way that refers to the past and to our shared cultural heritage and thus enables broad reflection on how personal memory is entangled with collective history. The work asks questions about nationality, identity and their absence or loss.

Danh Vo was the winner of the ARKEN Art Prize 2015 for his works, which with great clear-sightedness and insight enable us to uncover power relations and social structures that we take for granted. Balancing on a razor’s edge between homage and criticism, Danh Vo points to the mecha­nisms that help to give objects and stories an iconic status in our collective and personal memory.

Jeppe Hein

Jeppe Hein, Spiral Labyrinth, 2006. ARKEN's collection


When we move around Jeppe Hein’s Spiral Labyrinth at ARKEN, both the room and our reflections become completely fragmented. In the installation Hein investigates how little is needed to confuse us and make us lose our footing. Our senses are sharpened, and we gain a new image of ourselves. Meanwhile, we become mindful of our surroundings and the body’s significance in our ability to orientate ourselves. Jeppe Hein’s works create experiences through participation in art, and the beholder is constantly interacting with it in new ways.

Jeppe Hein received ARKEN Art Prize 2014 for creating amazing and unpredictable art experiences that remind us of the inseparable connection between body and consciousness. In his art, the senses are activated through surprise, play and interaction. He makes us aware of basic values such as presence, joy, dialogue and thoughtfulness.

Carsten Höller

Carsten Höller, Upside Down Mushroom Room, 2000. Courtesy the artist and Fondazione Prada, Milano. Foto: Attilio Maranzano


Winding rollercoasters from dizzying heights, merry-go-rounds, enlarged upside down amanitas and the chance to spend the night in the exhibition room with living reindeer, budgies, mice and flies. German artist Carsten Höller stimulates us and experiments with us, as though we were lab rats in a scientist’s laboratory. Carsten Höller is originally an insect researcher.

Carsten Höller received ARKEN Art Prize 2013 for bringing in his own materials, relations and systems and reflecting on life’s major existentialist questions. He puts familiar everyday objects and materials into new contexts, thus making them alien to us. We lose our secure and reliable standpoint and are forced to meet, use and define ourselves in new ways.

Anselm Reyle

Anselm Reyle, Wagon Wheel, 2009. ARKEN's collection


An old cartwheel hangs on the wall, lit up by alternating LED colours that grab our attention. The cartwheel is one of German contemporary artist Anselm Reyle’s most iconic works. He combines the abstract shape, the discovered object and the nostalgic everyday kitsch that we know from the walls of the typical detached home.

Anselm Reyle received ARKEN Art Prize 2012 for his elegant and uncompromising way of creating works that both seduce us and challenge our idea of great art and good taste. He has also become a pioneer in the renewal of abstraction and formalism in contemporary art.

Pascale Marthine Tayou

Pascale Marthine Tayou, Fashion Street, 2010. ARKEN's collection


A man with legs and head made of clear glass. A body consisting of yellow, green and pink foam sponges with Mikado-pins sticking out in all directions. By his side is a wooden spear decorated with fur, hair and pearls. The work Fashion Street is an homage to street-sellers all over the world. It is made by Cameroon artist Pascale Marthine Tayou, who challenges the question of migration, identity and culture through art.

Pascale Marthine Tayou received ARKEN Art Prize 2011 for his ability to create gripping, generous and challenging works of art, which with hefty  aesthetic excess focus on the pressing issues of our modern, globalised world.

Bharti Kher

Bharti Kher, The hot winds that blow from the West, 2011. Detail


British-Indian Bharti Kher works with themes such as race, gender, affiliation, ethnicity and stereotypes. Her works focus sharply on cultural communities, rituals and traditions. Abstract materials, large installations or sculptures – she reflects on relationships between Indian and Western culture and history, processing materials from modern Indian culture into sensuous and spectacular works, which glide effortlessly into Western art’s modern conventions.

Bharti Kher received ARKEN Art Prize 2010 for her ability to express the individual’s and culture’s problems today. With crooked and humorous perspectives she reflects on identity between Western and Indian culture. Her art is experimental and debate-inciting with a global vision.

Olafur Eliasson

Olafur Eliasson, Your negotiable panorama, 2006. ARKEN's collection


Danish-Icelandic Olafur Eliasson’s artistic production sits on the border between science and aesthetics. He concentrates on intensifying the sensual experience of art. He is interested in how we as people help create reality. His focus is therefore how we sense things, and how we physically and mentally orientate ourselves in our surroundings.

Olafur Eliasson received ARKEN Art Prize 2009 for his artistic input, his high international level and his unique ability to create sensual works that actively involve us. He invites us all to watch and take part in his art. Eliasson puts contemporary art in focus for a wider public without compromising the content, but by insisting that art can make a difference.

John Bock

John Bock, Wühl um die Klumpen, 2002-03. ARKEN's collection


John Bock combines sculptures, installations, performance and film. Alongside art he also studied economics at university, which he uses in his works. He often comes across as an unworldly scientist with homemade Storm P. like models. He speaks a gibberish language, with words borrowed from science. Thus he is able to parody people’s need for logic and systematics.
John Bock also works with experimental art films. In his works he caricatures different film genres: Hollywood films, costume films and violent films. While he still stars in the films, he is beginning to use actors more and more.

John Bock received ARKEN Art Prize 2008 for daring to use the grotesque and absurd in his utterly deranged Works.

Tim Noble & Sue Webster

Tim Noble & Sue Webster, Falling Apart, 2001. ARKEN's collection


The British collaborative duo Noble and Webster deliberately use the trivial, kitsch and vulgar as their strategy when commenting on consumer culture, the world of advertising and the artist’s role in society. With their very own punk-rock aesthetics, they explore and comment on human traits and remain critical and unimpressed with modern society.

Tim Noble and Sue Webster received ARKEN Art Prize 2007 because they are able to challenge current existence with great talent, humour and innovative use of materials. This applies to both traditional artists’ roles and their vision of society. They criticise the consumer culture, but with their unusual self-portraits show that also they are a part of it.

Elmgreen & Dragset

Elmgreen og Dragset, Social mobility (staircase), 2005. ARKEN's collection


Through their art Danish-Norwegian collaborative duo Elmgreen & Dragset ask critical questions of society, people’s relationships and institutions such as the museum of art. Their sculptures and installations accurately and elegantly question power relations , social structures and identity.

Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset received ARKEN Art Prize 2006 for artistic input, which through its high international level and global vision contributes to the development of the experimental, innovative and debate-generating contemporary art. Their art creates new benchmarks for the individual and ensures that contemporary art does not stagnate into an introvert monologue, but turns towards the world and society.