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Actress Catherine Deneuve
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/G. Fischer

Catherine Deneuve bestowed Japan's highest culture prize

Gero Schließ mm
July 11, 2018

The French actress, and the star conductor Riccardo Muti, are among those honored with the Praemium Imperiale. The Japanese award is often billed as the Nobel Prize for the Arts.


Revered French actress Catherine Deneuve has been awarded one of the world's most important culture prizes, the Praemium Imperiale.

The winners were announced by the nomination committee at the Japanese Embassy in Berlin on Wednesday, who recognized the 74-year-old movie star, along with the Italian conductor Riccardo Muti and the Belgian-French painter Pierre Alechinsky.

Other prizes were awarded to the Japanese artist Fujiko Nakaya and the French architect Christian de Portzamparc. They will all be formally recognized at an awards ceremony in Tokyo on October 23.

The Praemium Imperiale, sometimes called the Nobel Prize for the Arts, is awarded by Japan's imperial family and endowed with the equivalent of €116,500 ($136,000).

Always hitting the headlines

Deneuve is not only an award-winning film and theater actress known for her often-glamorous roles. She also regularly courts controversy with her outspoken views on politics and social issues.

Last year, at the height of the #Metoo debate that followed allegations of sexual misconduct by Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein and others, she warned in a controversial letter published in the French daily Le Monde against a "campaign of hatred" towards men, and complained that the discourse only served the enemies of sexual freedom.

Muti is a veteran of the international music business. From Berlin to Vienna and the New York Philharmonic, there is hardly a top orchestra he has not conducted. In 2018, he led the world-famous New Year's Concert of the Vienna Philharmonic for the fifth time.

Illustrious winners' list

Unlike Deneuve and Muti, the Belgian-French painter Pierre Alechinsky leads a more private life. His last important exhibition took place some years ago. So it is likely that the 90-year-old, who uses Japanese calligraphy and Chinese ink techniques, has been selected for his life's work, in which he has also utilized ceramics, prints and paintings.

Belgian painter Pierre Alechinsky
With his lifetime of work, Belgian painter Pierre Alechinsky has also been honoredImage: AFP/Getty Images/G. Julien

Fujiko Nakaya, born in Sapporo, Japan in 1933, is best known for her "fog sculptures," in which she experiments with water, air and clouds. Revered as a "fog artist," Nakaya staged an astounding fog landscape at London's Tate Modern in 2017. Inspired by her father, an experimental physicist and meteorologist, she says her installations help one come to terms with nature.

London Fog installation
"London Fog" by Fujiko Nakaya at London's Tate Modern in 2017Image: Courtesy of Fujiko Nakaya/Photo: Sayaka Shimada

French architect singled out

The internationally acclaimed buildings by French architect Christian de Portzamparc, awarded the renowned Pritzker Prize in 1994, are of striking elegance. The 74-year-old designed the new French Embassy at Pariser Platz in Berlin and has created the famous Paris Cite de la Musique and the Philharmonie Luxembourg as well.

Hotel Renaissance in Paris
The Hotel Renaissance in Paris, designed by Christian de PortzamparcImage: Japan Art Association / The Sankei Shimbun

Announcing the 2018 winners, Klaus Dieter Lehmann, President of the Goethe-Institut and member of the nomination committee, said the selection was proof that the Japanese prize seeks to "stimulate cultural dialogue across borders, and thus support tolerance, peace and the development of humanity."

More than 150 artists from 30 nations have received the Praemium Imperiale during its almost 30-year history, including the German painter Gerhard Richter, the legendary Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, and European filmmakers such as Ingmar Bergman and Federico Fellini.

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