Clara Ianni Receives Werner Fenz Grant for Art in Public Space

Clara Ianni, research photo for Resurrection (2024)

For the first time, steirischer herbst and the City of Graz are jointly awarding the Werner Fenz Grant for Art in Public Space. Out of 142 submissions, renowned Brazilian artist Clara Ianni convinced the jury with her proposal for a performance in Graz’s urban space. The grant, endowed with 17,000 euros, includes the work’s production during steirischer herbst ’24.

On the initiative of over two hundred artists, curators, journalists, and other members of the art world, the City of Graz’s culture department established a grant for art in public space in 2020 to honor art historian and curator Werner Fenz (1944–2016). In 2021, it was awarded for the first time to Hannes Zebedin for his project Die Brücke (The Bridge), produced in 2022 as part of steirischer herbst’s Parallel Program.

Werner Fenz was closely associated with steirischer herbst and curated countless projects at the festival. In light of its resources and extensive production experience with art in public space, it was logical to award the biennial grant jointly with the city and to fully integrate the production of the winning project into steirischer herbst. The grant is aimed at national and international projects that deal with the sociopolitical context of Graz and promotes art that provides decisive impulses for public space as well as social change.

Following these criteria, the five-member jury consisting of Nils van Beek, Martin Behr, Ekaterina Degot, Katrina Petter, and Andreas Siekmann voted unanimously for the project Resurrection by Clara Ianni.

Born in São Paulo in 1987, Clara Ianni critically examines dominant historical narratives, power structures, and institutional frameworks in her work, including those of the art world. With her Werner Fenz Grant project, Ianni renders usually forgotten objects visible in public again. Her performance revives discarded backdrops and props from Graz’s theaters: trees, stones, clouds, or flowers—scenic elements that represent nature. Thus, real nature is juxtaposed with artificial nature to reveal surprising connections between human and ecological aspects.

steirischer herbst Initiates Collection for the Werner Fenz Grant

steirischer herbst is initiating the collection of the Werner Fenz Grant at steirischer herbst and has purchased originals from ten selected artists who applied for the 2024 Werner Fenz Grant for Art in Public Space. The new collection will grow in parallel with the biennial grant and include preparatory material such as drafts or sketches included in the proposals. It allows for examining different creative processes and unrealized artistic ideas while stimulating reflection on the possibilities of art in public space in Graz and beyond.

For the first acquisitions, Tom Bogaert, Chang Gao, Matthias Dämpfle, Danube Transformation Agency for Agency, Department für öffentliche Erscheinungen, Lodewijk Heylen, Christina Köhler, Bernadette Laimbauer, Marc O’Callaghan Selva, and Lisa Premke were chosen. Their projects represent a cross section of the artistic work that corresponds to the new collection’s goal and is paradigmatic of Werner Fenz’s understanding of art in public space.

Preparatory material for Clara Ianni’s project is also part of this first contribution to the collection, which will be presented to the public in a separate exhibition at steirischer herbst ’24. It opens on the festival’s second weekend at Forum Stadtpark. Numerous documents, interviews, and photos related to Fenz’s project Kunst Heimat Kunst (1992–94) will, in addition to the ten selected works, shed light on the multidimensionality of his contribution as a cultural worker, historian, and curator.

Ulrike Fenz-Kortschak: Donation to steirischer herbst Archive

Archive material donated by Ulrike Fenz-Kortschak, photo: steirischer herbst / Georg Hartwig

Ulrike Fenz-Kortschak, Werner Fenz’s widow, has generously agreed to donate parts of her private archive on her husband’s work at steirischer herbst to the festival. This includes, in particular, material relating to the projects Bezugspunkte 38/88 (1988) and Kunst Heimat Kunst (1992–94), which rank among the most iconic in the festival’s history. Notably Hans Haacke’s sculpture Und ihr habt doch gesiegt (1988), which was installed at Am Eisernen Tor and set on fire by neo-Nazis, is to this day known across the world. Correspondence, sketches, and photos in the steirischer herbst Archive and Research Center will provide researchers with important insights into this and other festival works.