The winners of the Baltic Artists’ Award 2017 have been announced as Jose Dávila, Eric N. Mack, Toni Schmale and Shen Xin.

Each artist will take part in a 13-week exhibition at Baltic, Gateshead, opening on 30 June 2017. The artists will each receive £25,000 to create new work and a £5,000 artist fee.

The awards claim to be the first worldwide art award to be judged solely by artists. This year’s selectors were: Monica Bonvicini, Mike Nelson, Pedro Cabrita Reis, and Lorna Simpson. They have each selected an emerging artist whose work ‘they strongly believe in’.

Mexican artist Jose Dávila, selected by Pedro Cabrita Reis, makes sculptural work based on the arrangement and overlapping of common construction materials such as boulders, glass, steel, concrete and marble. Meanwhile, New York based Eric N. Mack quilts large-scale patchwork panels, fusing paint with readymade fabrics.

German artist Toni Schmale was selected by Monica Bonvicini and is currently based in Vienna, Austria. An ex-professional athlete, her sculptures critique social power relations and their stereotypical gender constructions.

The final winner is Chinese artist Shen Xin who currently lives and works in London. Her films explore political narratives and dominant power structures.

Explaining his choice, Mike Nelson, who has twice been nominated for the Turner Prize, said: “With the work of Shen Xin I was immediately intrigued and wrong footed. It dealt with subjects and ideologies that I knew very little of, coercing my interest and understanding. It also felt like the right time for her as an artist based in Britain but with limited exposure here.”

Monica Bonvicini, who won the Golden Lion for the best pavilion at the 1999 Venice Biennale, said: “Toni Schmale’s practice reflects a serious and engaged research into materials and ideas, a precise execution, and a willingness to look for dialogue via unexpected and unexplored paths.”

Lorna Simpson, who was the first African-American woman ever to show in the Venice Biennale, selected Eric N. Mack. She said the award would offer “a beautiful opportunity” for the Columbia-born artist.

Pedro Cabrita Reis added: “I like a lot of things about José Dávila’s work, but above all, I like the fact that he is an intelligent artist.”

The Baltic Artists’ Awards exhibition takes place 30 June – 1 October 2017.

1. Eric N Mack, In Definitely Felt, 2016. Courtesy Baltic
2. Jose Davila, Untitled (Allure), 2014. Photo: enrique Macías Martínez. Courtesy of the artist and OMR
3. Toni Schmale, waltraud, 2016. Photo credit: Sofia Goscinski. Courtesy Christine König Galerie and the artist
4. Shen Xin, Still, Provocation of the Nightingale #1. 2017

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