Not only the composer Robert Schumann was born in Zwickau, but also the members of the expressionist Dresden artist group "Brücke" Fritz Bleyl (1880-1966) and Max Pechstein (1881-1955). Building on these cultural traditions, the City of Zwickau has been awarding the Max Pechstein Prize since 1947.
In 1947, it was possible to persuade Max Pechstein, who lived in Berlin, to establish the prize, so that it could be awarded for the first time - together with the award of honorary citizenship to Max Pechstein - as the art prize of the City of Zwickau.
In line with Pechstein's intentions and the ideas of the Zwickau cultural managers, a sponsorship prize for young artists was created. The prize was forced to pause from 1963 to 1984, as the City of Zwickau had to give up the award in favour of the art prize of the former council of the Karl-Marx-Stadt district.
It was not until 1985 that the efforts of the then city council and many people interested in culture were successful and the prize could be re-initiated in Zwickau. After the German reunification, the opportunity arose to take up the actual purpose of the sponsorship idea again and to focus on young artists and their not yet generally accepted works.
In 1995, the prize was awarded for the first time again as a sponsorship prize. Jana Milev, the prizewinner at the time, was later, like the 1997 prizewinner Adam Page, a participant in what is probably the world's most renowned event for contemporary art, the Documenta X in Kassel. And in 2002, five years later, two artists nominated for the 1999 prize in Zwickau were again represented at Documenta 11: the Dane Jens Haaning and the Berlin artist Manfred Pernice. Zwickau showed courage early on to exhibit artists who only a few years later, with their participation in Documenta, were among the top international artists of the world.
The prize is awarded every two years, twice in succession as a sponsorship prize for young artists or groups of artists (as a rule up to 30 years of age, in exceptional cases up to a maximum of 35 years) and once every sixth year as an honorary prize for the complete works of a distinguished contemporary artist. On the occasion of the award ceremony, the prize winners receive an exhibition in Zwickau's municipal museums, which will be supervised and curated there.
On the sponsorship prize
The decision by contemporary art experts to propose young artists has several reasons. Firstly, this kind of mentorship highlights the necessary interplay between artists and art mediators in today's cultural landscape, and secondly, it provides a better opportunity to highlight and promote the latest aspects and artistic positions in recent art developments. This is entirely in the spirit of the name bearer Max Pechstein, who at the beginning of the 20th century represented an avant-garde, contemporary and time-adequate view of art and, together with his friends of the artists' group "Brücke", radically broke away from traditional ideas of art. In 1906 they wrote in their programme: "With the belief in the development of a new generation of creators and enthusiasts, we call all young people together, and as young people who carry the future, we want to create freedom for our arms and lives against the well-established older forces...".
The selection of works is not limited to one artistic genre or one theme, since in our time the artistic means and current trends have become so diverse and transnational that this would only mean a narrowing of our diverse art landscape.
On the supra-regionality
The prize is intended for artists who live in German-speaking countries (analogous to Pechstein - as an important representative of German Expressionism). Nationality doesn't matter, the curators are free to introduce a foreigner living in Germany as well, this is already practice (the Englishman Adam Page who lives in Dresden was a prize winner in 1997, nominated artists for 2001 were an Icelander living in Hanover, a Finnish woman living in Frankfurt).
The art is already international through the selection process. This makes the sponsorship prize one of the most important young art prizes in Germany (Schmidt-Rottluff Prize, Renta Prize, Dorothea-von-Stetten Prize, Otto-Dix-Prize as well as the Prize of the Cultural Circle of the German Economy in the Federation of German Industries "Ars Viva", all of which have similar selection procedures).
On the sponsorship
With prize money of €5,000, the Pechstein Prize is not one of the highly endowed prizes (like the Nationalgalerie Berlin Prize for Young Art with €50,000 ), but since there is a small catalogue and an exhibition in the art collections for each proposed artist, this nomination already constitutes an important and not to be underestimated support. Usually the respective artist, in consultation with the curator, designs a presentation of his or her artistic work for the jury session. Working methods and artistic strategies are very different and diverse nowadays, so that the effort required for an artist to assess the work in all its complexity can be high (artists inspect rooms beforehand, coordinate the catalogue, etc.).