In Depth

Artes Mundi: The accolade creatives crave

With exhibitions across Cardiff and a Welsh artist up for the £40,000 prize for the first time since 2006, the biennial is hot property

The Turner Prize may grab the headlines, but for a cash-strapped creative, the prize to aim for is the biennial Artes Mundi. The largest award for contemporary art in the UK and one of the most significant in the world, now in its seventh edition, it celebrates the best in international visual arts exploring social reality and the winner receives an impressive £40,000. 

This edition's shortlisted artists will be exhibited in venues across Cardiff until February, with the winner announced on 25 January 2017. Having received more than 700 nominations from 90 countries, this year's prize represents the breadth of the current scene, bringing together a range of diverse viewpoints from across the globe.

The works demonstrate how the human condition can be interpreted across different subjects and media. Ghanaian-born British director John Akomfrah, known for films that explore the legacy of the African diaspora in Europe, will present Auto da Fe – a two-channel video projection that draws on the aesthetics of period drama to examine the history of migration.

Paris-based French-Algerian artist Neil Beloufa specialises in multimedia and his World Domination uses a combination of installations, film and sculptural elements to satirise politics and war. It will be shown alongside two further works, Counting Contest and Monopoly.

The issue of modern conflict has also sparked a response from others on the shortlist: Lamia Joreige lives and works in the Lebanese capital and the two works from her series Under-Writing Beirut examine the perception of hostilities in her country and the impact on its people. Nastio Mosquito, meanwhile, from Belgium, takes a more conceptual approach, bringing together installation, video and graphics for the first part in a series called Transitory Suppository, which is focused on a fictional dictator and his fiefdom.

Imagining new structures for society, Amy Franceschini, the founder of the artists' collective FutureFarmers, explores a communal approach to living and sharing of knowledge. The group's projects include Seed Journey, in which they "rescue" ancient seeds from the northern hemisphere and return them to their place of origin. The final artist is native Welshman Bedwyr Williams, who has created a new digitally enhanced film, entitled Big Towers, that imagines a fictional city based on the mountainsides of Cadair Idris, inspired by the real-life megacities that have boomed during times of economic growth. Simultaneously engaging and horrifying, it is being tipped by critics as the work likely to scoop that coveted prize fund.

Artes Mundi 7 will be exhibited in venues across Cardiff until 26 February 2017; artesmundi.org

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