Ragnar Kjartansson Wins the Malcom McLaren Performa Prize


Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson is the winner of the inaugural Malcolm Award, which was presented last night, at the closing celebration of Performa 11. Named for British impresario and Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren, the award will be given at the end of each Performa to an artist under 40 who “demonstrates the most innovative and thought-provoking performance during the biennial,” according to Performa’s website.

Kjartansson, who is 35, won for his mesmerizing Nov. 19 performance Bliss, a 12-hour restaging of a 3-minute aria from the final scene of Mozart’s 1786 opera The Marriage of Figaro.

The prize comes with $10,000 and an award created by designer Marc Newson—a small Joseph Cornell-like box containing objects found in South Bank along the Thames. . The award was presented to Kjartansson by music writer Greil Marcus and musician Lou Reed. Kjartansson was selected as the winner by art critic Claire Bishop, curator Jay Sanders and McLaren’s creative and life partner Young Kim.

At the ceremony, Peforma founder RoseLee Goldberg said she didn’t like the idea of singling out one artist for an award, but agreed to it as an honor to McLaren. McLaren was to have participated in Performa 09 but was diagnosed with abdominal cancer in October of that year, less than a month before the biennial; he died in 2010.