Museum of Conflict founder wins Jane Lombard Prize for Art and Social Justice
By Ariana Heffner
On October 10, multi-disciplinary artist Avni Sethi, who founded Ahmedabad’s participatory museum Conflictorium, was announced as the winner of the 2020–22 Jane Lombard Prize for Art and Social Justice by the Vera List Center for Art and Politics at New York’s New School. Sethi received a cash prize of USD 25,000 for her museum’s longterm impact on the Gujarat community.
Opened to the public in 2013, the museum of conflict evolved from Sethi’s final thesis project at Srishti School of Art, Design, and Technology in Bangalore, and strives to promote conversations on peace and conflict by integrating fields of art, law, culture, and behavioral science via its exhibitions, workshops, and film screenings. Sethi’s efforts in tackling political issues and conflict also goes beyond the museum’s space with outreach programs such as #KeepTalking Network, which collaborates with individuals, groups, and institutions including schools to encourage dialogue.
Speaking of her project, the jury commented that “The museum operates within a complicated political context and is an intellectual and ethical sanctuary in the region—particularly at a time when democracy and basic human rights, including religious freedoms, are under attack, in Gujarat, and elsewhere in the world.”
The Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics, later renamed as the Jane Lombard Prize for Art and Social Justice, was launched in 2012 to commemorate international artists who employ art in society and civic engagement. Sethi was chosen unanimously by the 2020–22 jury, chaired by curator of the Toronto Biennial of Art, Candice Hopkins. Other jurors included Ivet Curlin, curator of Kunsthalle Wien in Vienna; Natasha Ginwala, curator of Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin; Carin Kuoni, curator and director of the Vera List Center; Tamara Oyola-Santiago, educator and activist; and artist Shuddhabrata Sengupta of Raqs Media Collective.
The other finalists included Jorge González of platform Escuela de Oficios, which focuses on the recuperation of Puerto Rican material culture; Nayan Tara Gurung Kakshapati of Nepal Picture Library, which documents the social resistance in Nepal; Emeka Okereke of art project Invisible Borders Trans-African Photographers Organization, which explores colonial legacies and African visual cultures; and Detroit-based music studio and community center Underground Resistance for Submerge.
In the second half of 2021, Conflictorium will host an exhibition and conference in New York regarding the current political relationship between India and the United States.
Ariana Heffner is an editorial intern of ArtAsiaPacific.
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