It almost sounds like a fairy tale: a Swiss foundation with the mission of promoting young artists has been travelling around Europe since 1983 to select the annual recipient of a grant amounting to the fantastic sum of 40,000 euros. In keeping with the wishes of the founder Friedrich Vordemberg-Gildewart, known as VG (b. 1899 in Osnabrück, d. 1962 in Ulm), no conditions are attached to the award:
VG, a hugely versatile artist, was among the pioneers of Concrete Art and the first German Constructivist. He was a graphic artist, painter, sculptor, stage and furniture designer and interior decorator. In 1925, he joined the Dutch group De Stijl and lived in exile in the Netherlands during the Nazi regime. In 1954, VG returned to Germany to teach at the Hochschule für Gestaltung (School of Design) in Ulm at the invitation of Max Bill. He participated in the biennale in Venice (1952) and São Paolo (1953), and in the first and second documenta in Kassel in 1955 and 1959. Since his days in Hanover, this strong artistic personality was seconded by his powerfully intelligent wife Ilse Leda (b. 1906, Osnabrück, d. 1981, Rapperswil).
Like VG, Leda was a child of the avantgarde. Of Jewish origin, she was a dancer associated with Ivonne Georgi, and starting in 1937 worked at odd jobs to feed the family in Amsterdam. After VG’s death, she moved to Switzerland and managed her husband’s estate. From the early days of her married life, she knew what it was like to be a young artist of virtually no means, and decided to create a foundation to support them. She opted for a generous sum: a young person should be able to live on it for some time free of financial worry. She also made it clear that the grant should be awarded in different countries. This decision – which has proved its worth – was based on Leda’s life and principles, her belief in freedom and in empathy. The guidelines for awarding the grant thus exclude all ideological considerations. The founder relied on the power of art alone and used the term “Stipendium” (stipend, grant) for this award, which implies the support of talent without any set guarantees. In keeping with this principle, the VG grant is awarded in a discreet ceremony wholly focused on the beneficiary.
In 2014, the board of the foundation entrusted KIT with the selection of the candidates, who were to be under the age of 35. Together with four professors from the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf and the Kunsthochschule für Medien (KHM) in Cologne, 15 artists were selected to present their work.
Silke Albrecht, Malte Bruns, Frauke Dannert, Alwin Lay, Mercedes Neuß, Nicolas Pelzer, Dzifa Peters, Tobias Przybilla, Felicitas Rohden, Ruben Benjamin Smulczynski, Anna Vogel, Moritz Wegwerth, Kristin Wenzel, Marius Wübbeling, Josef Zky