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Video artwork wins 2016 Van Lanschot Art Prize

Jury: 'Intriguing from the first shot'

'Het Contact' (‘Contact’), a three-minute video artwork by Groningen-based Mirjam Offringa, has scooped the 2016 Van Lanschot Art Prize. From over 500 entries in a wide range of art forms, her offering best captured the spirit of our times, the jury felt. The video shows an ostensibly accidental but really tightly staged scene of five waiting people at an underground station.

Axel Rüger, chairman of the jury and Director of the Van Gogh Museum, said: "This work had us intrigued from the first shot. Mirjam did a great job staging the video and also creating visually arresting images by using primary, Mondrian-like colours. The art prize is awarded to a contemporary artist whose work best captures the spirit of our times for future generations and Mirjam has succeeded brilliantly."

Intriguing elements

The video offers a clear take on the world we live in today: four of these five people waiting at the underground station are caught up in their own smartphone world and have no contact with the people around them. But Rüger and the other members of the jury also note some intriguing elements: "What about the boy in the video? Why is he the odd one out not holding a mobile?"

Prize-winner Mirjam Offringa wants to leave the answers to such questions to the imagination of the viewer but is happy to share the thoughts underpinning her artwork: "We’re seeing mobile phones and mobile internet leading to less actual physical and verbal contact between people, and so to greater loneliness. Where we used to visit our parents in person, they now have to make do with a message on WhatsApp. That’s our world these days."

Art prize

Karl Guha, Van Lanschot’s CEO, presented the prize to Mirjam Offringa on behalf of the bank. Her video will be purchased for the Van Lanschot art collection and will be screened in De Nieuwe Kerk Amsterdam as part of the prestigious Masterpiece series, which is to showcase El Greco’s 'Pentecostés' from 18 February. Cathelijne Broers, Director of De Nieuwe Kerk Amsterdam, commented: "The Van Lanschot Art prize is awarded annually to a work of art capturing the spirit of our age – something in which El Greco was way ahead of his time. By collaborating with the Masterpiece series we’ll be able to make wonderful connections with contemporary art in the years ahead."

'Contact' can be seen at the De Nieuwe Kerk Amsterdam from 18 February through 9 April 2017.