Professor and photographer Deana Lawson wins big with the boss

Written by Adam Bryce

Photography Supplied

Lawson wins the prestigious Hugo Boss prize, becoming the first photographer to do so in the process.

New York–based Deana Lawson has become the first photographer to win one of the art world’s most respected awards — the Guggenheim Museum’s Hugo Boss Prize. Historically awarded to artists producing large-scale sculptures and video installations, the prize has previously been snapped up by the likes of Matthew Barney (1996), Pierre Huyghe (2002), and Simone Leigh (2018).

Lawson’s work primarily revolves around themes of intimacy, family, spirituality, sexuality and black aesthetics with scenes are full of cleverly nuanced cultural symbolism. Her photography centres on black people in poses and settings that appear to be organic but are, in fact, carefully staged.

Not only will Lawson receive US$100,000 in prize money, she has been awarded the opportunity to exhibit a solo exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in spring 2021.

It’ll be a busy year for the freshly awarded winner, with both the Institute of  Contemporary Art (Boston) and the Museum of Modern Art (New York) hosting museum surveys dedicated to the work of Lawson. And keep your eyes peeled for the upcoming Bienal de São Paulo and New York’s Sikkema Jenkins & Co gallery where you’ll discover new commissions of photographs focused on the African diaspora.


Mama Goma, Gemena, DR Congo, 2014 by Deana Lawson.

Coulson Family, 2008 by Deana Lawson.

Signs, 2016 by Deana Lawson.

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