INDEPENDENT CURATORS INTERNATIONAL
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ANNOUNCING STEVE MCQUEEN TO RECEIVE THE 2021 LEO AWARD

Posted on September 8, 2021

Photo by: Mark Peckmezian


Independent Curators International (ICI), the leading arts organization focused on the role of the curator in contemporary art and culture, announced today that it will honor artist and filmmaker Steve McQueen with the 2021 Leo Award. Presented in conjunction with ICI’s 2021 Benefit in a Box, the Award recognizes McQueen for his major accomplishments in art and film for more than 25 years, his commitment to tackling overlooked subject-matter and shifting cultural paradigms through his work, as well as for his support of ICI’s educational, research and professional development programs for curators of color and his role in conceiving the Marian Goodman Gallery Initiative in honor of the late Okwui Enwezor.

An artist, film director, and screenwriter, McQueen is celebrated internationally and has been the recipient of many prestigious awards including the Turner Prize (in 1999), Cannes Film Festival Camera d’Or (for Hunger in 2008), and the Academy Award for Best Picture (for 12 Years a Slave in 2014). His latest project Small Axe, titled after the Bob Marley lyrics “So if you are the big tree, we are the small axe,” is an anthology of five films about the Black British experience and acts of resistance against injustice and systemic racism in London from the 1960s to the 1980s. It was released to critical acclaim and received numerous awards as well as two of the films being chosen for the Cannes Film Festival 2020.

In the same year, McQueen conceived the Marian Goodman Gallery Initiative in honor of the late Okwui Enwezor, creating educational and research opportunities for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) curators. In its first phase, the Initiative will support over three years ICI’s research and professional development programs to empower and sustain a more diverse generation of curators, including three Curatorial Intensives (ICI’s professional development program for emerging curators) in Africa, and six Curatorial Research Fellowships to BIPOC curators based in the US and curators of African descent based anywhere around the world. Following an overwhelming response to the initial Curatorial Research Fellowships call for applications earlier this year, McQueen supported two additional fellowships, allowing ICI to further expand its role in fostering new voices in the field.

The Initiative also recognizes Okwui Enwezor (1963-2019), the influential curator, art critic, writer, poet, and educator who championed the agency of African Art and challenged the long-established narrative of European and North American art. “Okwui was always thinking about the future”, said McQueen, “always thinking ahead in order to create a healthier environment for all, no matter what the challenges were or what he, as a pioneer, came up against. This Initiative is very much in his spirit, championing innovators in a field that he reinvented.”

In awarding this year’s Leo, ICI celebrates McQueen’s inspiring work as well as his support for the future of the curatorial field, reflecting on the importance of nourishing and empowering relationships between curators and artists, such as Enwezor and McQueen’s. “With this Award, we honor Steve’s visionary leadership and innovative thinking,” says Renaud Proch, ICI Executive & Artistic Director. “We are deeply grateful to Steve for making the expansion of ICI’s already growing program of curatorial fellowships possible, and serving as a role model for those truly interested in investing in the next generation of curators.” 

Established in 1990, and named after early ICI supporter and legendary art dealer Leo Castelli, the award recognizes extraordinary contributions to the field of contemporary art. Past recipients of the award include Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Dimitris Daskalopoulos, Marian Goodman, Michael Govan, Roy and Dorothy Lichtenstein, Miuccia Prada, Emily Rauh Pulizter, and Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo.

About Steve McQueen:
Steve McQueen is an artist, film director, and screenwriter. He has directed four feature films and most recently the anthology Small Axe (2020). His first, Hunger (2008), was awarded the Caméra d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, and his third, 12 Years a Slave (2013), received the Golden Globe, Oscar, and BAFTA awards for best picture in 2014.

McQueen was featured in Documenta (1997 and 2002), represented Great Britain at the 53rd Venice Biennale in 2009, and was selected several times for the Venice Biennale’s central pavilion (2003, 2007, 2013, and 2015). Solo exhibitions of his work have been held at the Art Institute of Chicago (2012 and 2017); Schaulager, Basel (2013); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2016); and at the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; and Pérez Art Museum, Miami (all 2017). In 2019, he presented Year 3, a portrait of an entire age group of London schoolchildren, at Tate Britain, London. In August 2020 a major solo exhibition opened at the Tate Modern, London.

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