Mario Merz Prize

Edition 1

Mario Merz Prize 1st edition

Exhibition of the winner Mario Merz Prize first edition

Wael Shawky Al Araba Al Madfuna

Exhibition curated by Abdellah Karroum

Fondazione Merz, 3 November 2016 – 5 February 2017


This site-specific exhibition by Wael Shawky is based on Al Araba Al Madfuna, a film trilogy inspired by Mohammed Mostajab’s novels Dayrout Al Sharif. The trilogy was shot in the Egyptian village of the same name with Shawky filming the third part in the ancient Abydos temple, which is connected to Al Araba Al Madfuna village via an underground passage. The exhibition at the Merz Foundation, which features the installations of the Al Araba Al Madfuna series, drawings, and large installations, fills the entire space of the foundation, including its exterior areas. Together with the screenings, architectural models and set designs specially created for the exhibition generate an original atmosphere inspired by the historical, literary and cinematographic references from which the artist constructed his stories. An artist’s book accompanies the exhibition.

Wael Shawky is the winner of the first edition of the Mario Merz Prize. The visitors’ vote was supplemented by that of the jury, composed of Manuel Borja-Villel, Massimiliano Gioni, Beatrice Merz and Lawrence Weiner, who gave the following grounds for their decision: “In spite of the excellent contributions provided by the 5 finalists, in terms of quality, deep conceptual approach and precision of the medium used, we have found Wael Shawky’s stance to best meet the scope of this project. His work combines thematic richness, the ability to mingle sometimes intractable issues and their effective depiction, the use of film as language and a surprisingly innovative and contemporary narrative technique. Through his evocative poetic language, studied settings, thoughtful reflections on tradition, courage to eschew a Western perspective to remain in Egypt and relate the great history of the Arab world and the Middle East as a whole, Shawky has shown himself to be an artist with a wealth of inspiration. His approach relies more on the language of art to show the contradictions that emerge in the engagement between distant cultures and religious faiths than on the literal historical relevance of the events described. In this respect, Wael Shawky’s is the perfect representation of a generation’s specific point of view and as such deserves the award, enabling him to present a new project in a solo exhibition.”

World premiere of Al Araba Al Madfuna III by Wael Shawky

winner of Mario Merz Prize first edition

Auditorium Kunsthaus Zürich, 11 June 2016, 11 am – 12.30 pm


Fondazione Merz announces the world premiere of Wael Shawky’s new film, Al Araba Al Madfuna III, produced by Qatar Museums as part of his solo exhibition at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha in 2015.

A conversation between the artist and Abdellah Karroum, the curator of the solo exhibition to be held at the Merz Foundation, accompany the screening.

Exhibition of the finalists Mario Merz Prize first edition

Exhibition curated by Beatrice Merz

Fondazione Merz, 29 January – 12 April 2015


The five finalists of the first edition of the Mario Merz Prize – selected from 512 nominees from the jurors Claudia Gioia (independent curator), Beatrix Ruf (director of the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam) and Marisa Merz – are Lida Abdul, Glenn Ligon, Naeem Mohaiemen, Anri Sala and Wael Shawky. The exhibition showcases two or more pieces by each of the finalists, selected among their most significant works.

The public is invited to vote when visiting the exhibition or by logging onto the prize website and cast their vote online. To evaluate the works and determine the winner there will also be a Jury of Experts. Members of the Final Jury for the Art Section are: Manuel Borja-Villel (Director of the Museo Nacional Centro de arte Reina Sofía, Madrid), Massimiliano Gioni (Head Curator New Museum, New York – Art Director Fondazione Trussardi, Milan), Lawrence Weiner (artist) and Beatrice Merz. 

The winning artist’s work will be featured in a solo show to be set up in the exhibition spaces of the Fondazione Merz in Turin. The artist will also receive support to create a new project. The exhibition will subsequently be showcased at the recently established Merz Foundation Switzerland.

The exhibition is free of charge.

“The Prize—which is not state-funded, but relies solely on private funding—originates from an idea of openness and participation”— say Beatrice and Willy Merz . “For this reason and since we ask the public to actively participate by casting their vote, we chose, together with the Organizing Committee, not to charge an admission fee for the exhibition nor the concert”.

Concert of the winner Mario Merz Prize first edition

In the wonderful settings of the Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern and the Carignano Theatre in Turin, exceptional musicians such as Alexander Lonquich, Cristina Barbuti, and the Camerata Bern orchestra, have delivered a unique performance, where the classicism of Mozart and Beethoven interacts with new contemporary scores by Cyrill Schürch—winner of the first edition of the Mario Merz Prize—and Willy Merz.

The orchestra members have donated their professional fees to Doctors Without Borders-Italy and the Swiss Refugee Council, and encourage the audience to follow suit and also show their support.



Alexander Lonquich piano, Cristina Barbuti piano, Meesun Hong Coleman violin, concertmaster




Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827) F-minor Quartet op. 95 “Serioso” for string orchestra

Willy Merz (1964) Offrandes “concerto autour du piano” for two pianists and orchestra (world premiere)

Cyrill Schürch (1974) Diagonale for string orchestra (world premiere)

Wolfgang A. Mozart (1756 – 1791) Concerto KV 271 “Jeunehomme” E flat-major for piano and orchestra


2nd May, 2016, 9 pm, TEATRO CARIGNANO, TURIN

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 -1791) Concerto A-major KV 414 for piano and orchestra

Willy Merz (1964) Offrandes “concerto autour du piano” for two pianists and orchestra (italian premiere)

Cyrill Schürch (1974), Diagonale for string orchestra (italian premiere)

Wolfgang A. Mozart (1756 – 1791) Concerto KV 271 E flat-major “Jeunehomme” for piano and orchestra

Concert of the finalists Mario Merz Prize first edition

Biblioteca civica musicale “Andrea Della Corte”, Turin, January 29 gennaio 2015, 8.30 pm


The finalists  Paolo Boggio, Arturo Corrales, Vassos Nicolaou, Cyrill Schürch and Vito Žuraj are selected from 132 nominees by the jurors Gianluca Cascioli (pianist), Stefano Pierini (composer and lecturer at the Centro di Formazione Musicale in Turin) and Philip Samartzis (sound-designer and lecturer at the University of Melbourne).

The concert, in collaboration with Biblioteca Civica Musicale Andrea Della Corte and Associazione DE SONO, is conducted by Willy Merz and performed by the Ensemble DE SONO Futura composed by:

Alessandra Russo, flute

Gianluca Calonghi, clarinet

Paolo Borsarelli, double bass

Luca Ieracitano, piano

Riccardo Balbinutti, percussions

Quartetto Maurice:

Aline Privitera, violin

Laura Bertolino, violin

Francesco Vernero, viola

Georgia Privitera, cello


The public is invited to vote after the finalists’ concert. Voters will also have the possibility to listen to the scores by logging onto the prize website and cast their vote online.

Members of the Final Jury for the Music Section feature: Dieter Ammann (composer), Thomas Demenga (cellist and composer), Alexander Lonquich (pianist) and Willy Merz.

For this first edition, the winning musician will be commissioned a music piece for a gallery space and a composition, which will be performed by the DE SONO string orchestra. The latter will premiere in Torino at the beginning of the 2015-2016 season, within a programme of contemporary music and traditional repertoire. Accompanying the winner’s score is a new composition by Willy Merz for piano duo and orchestra to be performed by Alexander Lonquich and Cristina Barbuti, and the Concert K 271 Jeunehomme by W. A. Mozart for piano and orchestra.