TOKYO – Spanish architect Rafael Moneo received on Wednesday the Praemium Imperiale, Japan’s highest award for the arts, during a ceremony in Tokyo which was presided over by Prince Hitachi, the younger brother of the emperor.
Moneo collected the prize along with Iranian photographer and visual artist Shirin Neshat, Ghanaian sculptor El Anatsui, Senegalese musician Youssou N’Dour, and Latvian dancer and actor Mikhail Baryshnikov, in a ceremony attended by distinguished personalities from the world of culture and diplomatic representatives.
Moneo – born in Tudela, Spain in 1937 – and the rest of the prizewinners received their gold medals from the prince, who attended the event in a wheelchair at the impressive Meiji Kinenkan venue, where the first constitution of the Japanese Empire was drafted.
Italy’s former Prime Minister Lamberto Dini, an international adviser of the Japan Art Association – which gives the award –, lauded the architect’s ability and excellence in making his grand buildings blend with the urban landscape and its environment.
Moneo is the fourth Spaniard to receive this prestigious award, after the tenor Placido Domingo (2013), sculptor Eduardo Chillida (1991) and painter Antonio Tapies (1990).
Following interventions of the organization, Baryshnikov, on behalf of the prizewinners, expressed gratitude for the recognition and underlined the importance of the arts in turbulent times.
The veteran dancer said that the Praemium Imperiale recognizes the artists’ works, dreams and agonies in trying to communicate the best and worst of being human.
The Praemium Imperiale carried a purse of 15 million yen (around $132,900), and was created in 1987 to commemorate the centenary of the Japan Art Association, and to recognize the contribution of artists across the world in the development and promotion of culture.
This prize has been awarded every year since 1989 in five categories namely painting, sculpture, architecture, music and theater/film.
Previous recipients of the award include Italian actress Sophia Loren (2010), Argentine-Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim (2007), Japanese painter Yayoi Kusama (2006) and Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer (2004).