Virginia Leonard honoured with Officine Saffi Supreme Award

New Zealand artist takes out top award in international contemporary ceramics prize.

Words: Charlotte Middleton

Congratulations to New Zealand artist Virginia Leonard (represented by Martin Browne Contemporary, Sydney; and Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland), who has clinched the €10,000 First Prize in the Officine Saffi Award with her ceramic work Pus and Scabs.

Now in its fourth edition, the Officine Saffi Award is a biennial prize that promotes international contemporary ceramics within Italy and abroad. Leonard’s work was selected from the high calibre works of 45 finalist artists from more than 16 countries, and praised for its “psychologically layered and exuberant expressionism.”

The international jury comprised Alessandro Rabottini, independent curator and artistic director of In Between Art FilmLivia Peraldo Matton, director responsible for Elle DecorChristian Larsen, curator of MAD Museum; Alvise Braga Illa, collector; Julian Stair, artist; Carolina Orsini, curator at MUDEC; Lisbet Friis, designer and member of the Danish Arts Foundation; Laura Borghi, founder of Officine Saffi.

About the win, Leonard said: “This is a cool award for me to win. I know the gallery as last time I showed at MIART in Milan they were the neighbouring gallery, so it makes it a bit more personal, and I have been to the gallery in Milan also.”

“It means more to me also as the other artists in the award are very skilled, and more often than not their work is highly technical; I appreciate the panel of judges looking past that and seeing the expression and gesture within the work and the painterly quality as well. Many of the jury and judges are people that I have admired from afar for a very long time.”

The only Southern Hemisphere artist to be included in this edition of the Award, the win comes as Leonard is preparing for a series of exhibitions in Europe. Her work is currently on view in a group show at Maison Louis Carré in France, before she shows at MIART Milan with Taste Contemporary on 17 September. A show at Usine Kugler in Geneva follows in early October.

“It’s nice to be recognised internationally as these shows are happening,” Leonard said.

The 45 finalist works are on show in Milan from 7 September to 6 November 2021.

This article was originally published 9 September 2021.

Image: Virginia Leonard, Pus and Scabs, 2021. 

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