Vilcek Foundation

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Vilcek Foundation
FounderJan and Marica Vilcek
FocusArts, biomedical science, immigration
Key people
Jan Vilcek (Co-founder), Marica Vilcek(Co-founder), Rick Kinsel (President)
Revenue (2014)
Expenses (2014)$4,822,527[1]

The Vilcek Foundation raises awareness of immigrant contributions to the United States, and fosters appreciation of the arts and sciences.[2] The foundation's flagship programs include the Vilcek Foundation Prizes, which recognize and support immigrant contributions to American arts, biomedical science, and society. The foundation is also the designated steward of the art collection assembled by founders Jan and Marica Vilcek, comprising holdings in American modernism, Native American pottery, pre-Columbian objects, and contemporary art.[3]

The Foundation was established in 2000 by Jan and Marica Vilcek, immigrants from the former Czechoslovakia.[4] The mission of the Foundation was inspired by the couple's respective careers in biomedical science and art history, as well as their personal experiences and appreciation for the opportunities offered them as newcomers to the United States.[5]


Vilcek Prizes[edit]

The Vilcek Prizes are awarded to foreign-born individuals residing permanently in the United States, with a legacy of outstanding achievement in the arts and sciences. The Foundation awards two Vilcek Prizes annually, one in biomedical science and the other in the arts and humanities; the latter in a field designated annually by the Foundation, such as fine arts, architecture, music, filmmaking, culinary art, literature, dance, contemporary music, design, and fashion. Each prize consists of a $100,000 cash award and a commemorative sculpture designed by Austrian-born Stefan Sagmeister.[6]

Vilcek Prize for Excellence[edit]

The Vilcek Prize for Excellence, introduced in 2019, recognizes immigrants whose contributions profoundly impact American society and world culture, or individuals who are champions for immigrant causes. The recipients receive a $100,000 cash award and a commemorative diploma designed by Jessica Walsh.

Vilcek Prizes for Creative Promise[edit]

The Vilcek Prizes for Creative Promise are awarded to foreign-born individuals who have demonstrated outstanding achievement during the early stages of their careers. Like the Vilcek Prize, the Vilcek Prizes for Creative Promise are awarded each year in the field of biomedical science and a selected art field. Creative Promise applicants are required to submit essays, personal statements, and examples of their work. To be eligible for the prize, applicants must have been born abroad, reside permanently in the United States, and be within the specified age limit. As of 2013, three prizes each will be awarded in biomedical science[7] and a designated art field.[8] Each recipient is awarded a $50,000 cash prize and a commemorative plaque.

Vilcek-Gold Award for Humanism in Healthcare[edit]

In 2019, the Vilcek Foundation partnered with the Arnold P. Gold Foundation to create a joint award, the Vilcek-Gold Award for Humanism in Healthcare. The award is bestowed to a foreign-born individual in the United States who has demonstrated an extraordinary impact on humanism in healthcare through their professional achievements.

New American Filmmakers[edit]

Since 2007, the Vilcek Foundation has been a proud sponsor of the New American Filmmakers program. Curated and presented in collaboration with the Hawaii International Film Festival, the program seeks out the most talented foreign-born filmmakers currently contributing to American cinema. The result is a diverse program that draws upon cinematic genres and traditions from around the world.

Prize recipients[edit]

Vilcek Prizes[edit]

Name Year Category Country of Birth
Angelika Amon[9]
2019 Biomedical Science Austria
Marcus Samuelsson[10] 2019 Culinary Arts Ethiopia
Alexander Rudensky[11]
2018 Biomedical Science Russia
Teddy Cruz[12] 2018 Architecture Guatemala
Lily Jan[13]
Yuh Nung Jan[13]
2017 Biomedical Science China
Nari Ward[14] 2017 Fine Arts Jamaica
Dan Littman[15] 2016 Biomedical Science Romania
Blanka Zizka[15] 2016 Theatre Czech Republic
Peter Walter[16] 2015 Biomedical Science Germany
Andrew Bolton[17] 2015 Fashion United Kingdom
Thomas Jessell[18] 2014 Biomedical Science United Kingdom
Neri Oxman[19] 2014 Design Israel
Richard Flavell[20]
Ruslan Medzhitov[20]
2013 Biomedical Science United Kingdom
Yo-Yo Ma[21] 2013 Contemporary Music France (to Chinese parents)
Carlos Bustamante[22] 2012 Biomedical Science Peru
Mikhail Baryshnikov[22] 2012 Dance Latvia (to Russian parents)
Titia de Lange[23] 2011 Biomedical Science Netherlands
Charles Simic[24] 2011 Literature Yugoslavia
Alexander Varshavsky[25] 2010 Biomedical Science Russia
José Andrés[26] 2010 Culinary Arts Spain
Huda Zoghbi[27] 2009 Biomedical Science Lebanon
Mike Nichols[28] 2009 Filmmaking Germany
Inder Verma[29] 2008 Biomedical Science India
Osvaldo Golijov[28] 2008 Music Argentina
Rudolf Jaenisch 2007 Biomedical Science Germany
Denise Scott Brown[30] 2007 Architecture Zambia
Joan Massagué[31] 2006 Biomedical Science Spain
Christo and Jeanne-Claude[28] 2006 Fine Art Bulgaria, Morocco (to French parents)

Vilcek Prizes for Excellence[edit]

Name Year Category Country of Birth
Carmen C. Bambach[32]
2019 Art History and Museum Work Chile

Vilcek Prizes for Creative Promise[edit]

Name Year Category Country of Birth
Amit Choudhary 2019 Biomedical Science India
Jeanne T. Paz 2019 Biomedical Science Georgia
Mikhail G. Shapiro 2019 Biomedical Science Russia
Tejal Rao 2019 Culinary Arts United Kingdom
Fabian von Hauske Valtierra 2019 Culinary Arts Mexico
Nite Yun 2019 Culinary Arts Cambodia
Polina Anikeeva 2018 Biomedical Science Russia
Sergiu P. Pașca 2018 Biomedical Science Romania
Feng Zhang 2018 Biomedical Science China
Mona Ghandi 2018 Architecture Iran
James Leng 2018 Architecture China
Jing Liu 2018 Architecture China
Michaela Gack 2017 Biomedical Science Germany
Michael Halassa 2017 Biomedical Science Jordan
Ahmet Yildiz 2017 Biomedical Science Turkey
Iman Issa 2017 Fine Arts Egypt
Meleko Mokgosi 2017 Fine Arts Botswana
Carlos Motta 2017 Fine Arts Colombia
Fernando Camargo 2016 Biomedical Science Peru
Roberta Capp 2016 Biomedical Science Brazil
Houra Merrikh 2016 Biomedical Science Iran
Sarah Benson 2016 Theatre United Kingdom
Desdemona Chiang 2016 Theatre Taiwan
Yi Zhao 2016 Theatre China
Sun Hur 2015 Biomedical Science South Korea
Rob Knight 2015 Biomedical Science New Zealand
Franziska Michor 2015 Biomedical Science Austria
Siki Im 2015 Fashion Germany, to Korean parents
Natallia Pilipenka 2015 Fashion Belarus, to Ukrainian parents
Tuyen Tran 2015 Fashion Vietnam
Antonio Giraldez 2014 Biomedical Science Spain
Stavros Lomvardas 2014 Biomedical Science Greece
Pardis Sabeti 2014 Biomedical Science Iran
Yasaman Hashemian 2014 Design Iran
Mansour Ourasanah 2014 Design Togo
Quilian Riano 2014 Design Colombia
Hashim Al-Hashimi 2013 Biomedical Science Lebanon
Michael Rape 2013 Biomedical Science Germany
Joanna Wysocka 2013 Biomedical Science Poland
James Abrahart[21] 2013 Contemporary Music United Kingdom
Samuel Bazawule[21] 2013 Contemporary Music Ghana
Tigran Hamasyan[21] 2013 Contemporary Music Armenia
Alice Ting[33] 2012 Biomedical Science Taiwan
Michel Kouakou[22] 2012 Dance Ivory Coast
Yibin Kang[34] 2011 Biomedical Science China
Dinaw Mengestu[35] 2011 Literature Ethiopia
Harmit Malik[36] 2010 Biomedical Science India
Varin Keokitvon[37] 2010 Culinary Arts Laos
Howard Chang 2009 Biomedical Science Taiwan
Ham Tran[38] 2009 Filmmaking Vietnam

In 2013, the Vilcek Prizes for Creative Promise were changed from recognizing one winner and four finalists to recognizing three winners in each category. The past finalists are listed below.

Name Year Category Country of Birth
Konrad Hochedlinger 2012 Biomedical Science Austria
Andreas Hochwagen 2012 Biomedical Science Austria
Songhai Shi 2012 Biomedical Science China
Benjamin tenOever 2012 Biomedical Science Canada
Fanny Ara 2012 Dance Spain
Thang Dao 2012 Dance Vietnam
Alice Gosti 2012 Dance Italy
Pontus Lidberg 2012 Dance Sweden
Katherine Fitzgerald 2011 Biomedical Science Ireland
Ekaterina Heldwein 2011 Biomedical Science Russia
Galit Lahav 2011 Biomedical Science Israel
Elina Zuniga 2011 Biomedical Science Argentina
Ilya Kaminsky 2011 Literature Ukraine
Tea Obreht 2011 Literature Serbia
Vu Tran 2011 Literature Vietnam
Simon Van Booy 2011 Literature Wales
Iannis Aifantis 2010 Biomedical Science Greece
Rustem Ismagilov 2010 Biomedical Science Russia
Vamsi Mootha 2010 Biomedical Science India
Jin Zhang 2010 Biomedical Science China
Michael Cheng 2010 Culinary Arts Malaysia
Yoshinori Ishii 2010 Culinary Arts Japan
Nandini Mukherjee 2010 Culinary Arts India
Boris Portnoy 2010 Culinary Arts Russia
Katerina Akassoglou 2009 Biomedical Science Greece
Evgeny Nudler 2009 Biomedical Science Russia
F. Nina Papavasiliou 2009 Biomedical Science Greece
Aviv Regev 2009 Biomedical Science Israel
Almudena Carracedo 2009 Film Spain
Amin Matalqa 2009 Film Jordan
Kirill Mikhanovsky 2009 Film Russia
Shih-Ching Tsou 2009 Film Taiwan

Vilcek-Gold Award for Humanism in Healthcare[edit]

Name Year Citation Country of Birth
Mona Hanna-Attisha[39] 2019 For exposing lead poisoning in Flint, Michigan, through public water supply[40] UK, to Iraqi parents

Art collections[edit]

The Vilcek Foundation holds several art collections that are promised gifts from founders Jan and Marica Vilcek. These collections include the American Modernism Collection,[41] which traces the development of artists such as Oscar Bluemner, Ralston Crawford, Stuart Davis, and Marsden Hartley, as well as the movement as a whole; the Native American Pottery Collection,[42] which consists primarily of objects by Acoma, Hopi, Cochiti, Kewa, Tesuque, Zia, and Zuni potters, dating from the 19th and 20th centuries; and the Pre-Columbian Collection,[43] which features objects from across the pre-Columbian world, with an emphasis on the art of Mesoamerica, and the Contemporary Art Collection,[44] a small but growing collection of works by contemporary immigrant artists.

Events and exhibitions[edit]

In 2019, the Vilcek Foundation opened their new headquarters on Manhattan's Upper East Side, which includes two floors of gallery space.[45] The gallery will be the site of free, public exhibitions based on the Vilcek Foundation Art Collections; the inaugural exhibition, "Ralston Crawford: Torn Signs," opened on May 13 and will run through November 13, 2019.[46]

“Ralston Crawford: Torn Signs” explores the national and international influences on the multifaceted Canadian-born artist. Although he earned acclaim early in his career for his Precisionist paintings of an industrialized America, Crawford devoted the latter part of his career to abstract painting with a remarkable emotional dimension. “Torn Signs” focuses on two series—“Torn Signs” and “Semana Santa”—that the artist developed over the last two decades of his life. Though their subject matter is drastically different—one is inspired by tattered advertisements on New York’s streets, while the other depicts observers of Holy Week in Seville, Spain—Crawford connects them through his extraordinary visual memory, working method, and inventiveness.[47]

The inaugural exhibition in the Vilcek Foundation’s headquarters, “Ralston Crawford: Torn Signs,” was curated by Emily Schuchardt Navratil.[48]  A catalogue of the exhibition was published in 2019 by Merrell Publishers,[49] and features contributions from William Agee, John Crawford, Rick Kinsel, and exhibition curator Emily Schuchardt Navratil. The exhibition was reviewed by Louis Block for the September issue of The Brooklyn Rail.[50] Block’s review contextualizes the impact and influence of the earlier works, “Torn Signs” on the Semana Santa series, with particular focus on compositional development and geometric abstraction.

In September, 2019, the Vilcek Foundation announced its 2020 exhibition, Marsden Hartley: Adventurer in the Arts, on display from April 29th through September 9th, 2020.[51] The exhibition will bring together over 35 paintings and drawings from the American Modernist painter, poet, and essayist, Marsden Hartley, spanning 36 years of his career.  Exhibited alongside a selection of Hartley’s personal effects –mementos from his travels, snapshots, and keepsakes – the exhibition will provide an intimacy and depth to the artist and his works, providing a deeper understanding of how his wanderlust and life influenced his art.  

To organize this unique exhibition, the Vilcek Foundation partnered with the Bates College Museum of Art, home to The Marsden Hartley Memorial Collection.[52] Following its display in New York, the exhibition will travel to the Bates College Museum of Artin Lewiston, ME where it will be on display from October 2nd, 2020 through March 2nd, 2021.

Past events and exhibitions[edit]

The Vilcek Foundation's former headquarters, also on the Upper East Side, was the host of exhibitions and events featuring the work of immigrant artists, designers, filmmakers, and others.[53]

Exhibition/Event Type of Event Year Participant(s) Participant's Country of Birth
Brian Doan: hôme hôme hôme[54] Mixed-media Installation 2013 Brian Doan Vietnam
Pivotal Works: The Vilcek Foundation Project[55] Series of Dance performances 2012 Michel Kouakou
Fanny Ara
Thang Dao
Alice Gosti
Pontus Lidberg
Ivory Coast
I Am Your Mirror[56] Photography, Mixed-media Installation 2012 O Zhang China
Almost Undone[57] Mixed-media Installation 2011 Nicole Awai Trinidad
String Theater[58] Concert 2011 Mari Kimura Japan
The New Vernacular: Immigrant Authors in American Literature[35] Literature Reading 2011 Dinaw Mengestu
Ilya Kaminsky
Téa Obreht
Vu Tran
Simon Van Booy
Liesl Schillinger (host)
United Kingdom
Caring and Advocating for Torture Survivors[59] Lecture 2011 Allen Keller (Lecturer)
Samten Dapka
Cheikhna Mahawa

Senbazuru[60] Mixed-media Installation 2010 Toshiko Nishikawa Japan
Transparency[61] Fashion Presentation 2010 Madina Vadache Russia
The Vilcek Foundation Celebrates LOST[62] Photography Installation, Exhibition of Original Props[63] 2010 24 Immigrant and First Generation Cast and Crew of ABC's LOST[64]
Brazil, Chile, China, Cuba, England, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Panama, Poland, South Africa, Philippines, South Korea, Tonga
Circumplex[65] Video Art Installation 2009 Kai-Duc Luong Cambodia
enTANGOed[66] Concert 2009 Peter Breiner Slovakia
Mephistophelean Exhibition of Sculpture 2009 Ryo Toyanaga Japan
Japanese Art Today: Takashi Murakami and "Superflat" in Context[67] Lecture 2009 Eleanor Heartney
Why 1960's Japanese Art? Global Implications for Contemporary Art History[68] Lecture 2009 Reiko Tomii Japan
Asian American Artist and the Transmission of the East to the American Avant-Garde[69] Lecture 2009 Alexandra Munroe
American Immigrant Filmmakers on Profile[70] Film Screening 2008 Sarab Neelam
Sielu Avea
Stephane Gauger
Kai-Duc Luong
Christine Choy
Sherwood Hu
The Gatekeeper of Emmyoin[71] Film Screening 2008 Reiko Tahara
Max Uesugi
Il Lee and Pouran Jinchi: Curated by Art Projects International[72] Exhibition of paintings and drawings 2008 Il Lee
Pouran Jinchi
South Korea


A Place at the Table: New American Recipes from the Nation's Top Foreign-Born Chefs[edit]

A Place at the Table: New American Recipes from the Nation’s Top Foreign-Born Chefs introduces the immigrants who are transforming America’s culinary landscape. Today, some of the country’s most exciting chefs hail from distant shores and they’re infusing their menus with the flavors of their heritage. Featuring recipes from 40 of the top foreign-born chefs working in the United States, this book presents dishes from luminaries including Dominique Crenn (France), Michael Solomonov (Israel), Marcus Samuelsson (Ethiopia/Sweden), Corey Lee (South Korea), and Daniela Soto-Innes (Mexico). These chefs are running the kitchens of the country’s most exciting restaurants and each of them has a compelling story to tell, from tackling economic injustice to redefining restaurant culture. With mouthwatering photography and short contributions from America’s leading food writers, such as Padma Lakshmi, this sumptuous, global, and inspiring cookbook brings a world of flavor into home kitchens. A Place at the Table was released by Prestel Publishing on September 24th, 2019.[73]

Ralston Crawford: Torn Signs[edit]

Ralston Crawford: Torn Signs explores the national and international influences on the multifaceted Canadian-born artist. Although he earned acclaim early in his career for his Precisionist paintings of an industrialized America, Crawford devoted the latter part of his career to abstract painting with a remarkable emotional dimension. Torn Signs focuses on two series—“Torn Signs” and “Semana Santa”—that the artist developed over the last two decades of his life. The catalogue includes essays from Rick Kinsel on the influence of Crawford’s travels to Europe, especially to Andalusia; William C. Agee on the artist’s life and reaction to historical events of the 20th century; John Crawford on the relationship between the two series and the role of photography in their development; and Emily Schuchardt Navratil on the genesis and context of individual works in each series. "Ralston Crawford: Torn Signs" was released by Merrell Publishers in April 2019.[74]

American Odysseys: Writings by New Americans[edit]

American Odysseys is an anthology of twenty-two novelists, poets, and short story writers. Among the featured writers are Ethiopian-born Dinaw Mengestu, the recipient of the 2011 Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Literature; Yugoslavian-born Téa Obreht, the youngest author to receive the Orange Prize in Fiction; and Chinese-born Yiyun Li, a MacArthur Genius grantee. The foreword is by U.S. Poet Laureate Charles Simic, the winner of the 2011 Vilcek Prize for Literature. A private, hard copy edition was first published in January 2012, and a trade paperback edition was released by Dalkey Archive Press on May 2, 2013.[75][76]

Masterpieces of American Modernism: From the Vilcek Collection

Masterpieces of American Modernism: From the Vilcek Collection[edit]

Masterpieces of American Modernism: From the Vilcek Collection, features ninety-eight paintings, works on paper and sculptures by twenty artists - including Stuart Davis, Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley, Georgia O'Keeffe and Max Weber. William C. Agee contributed the book's introduction and Lewis Kachur wrote individual entries on each work. In addition to tracing the evolution of individual artists and the movement as a whole, the book explores developments within American Modernism, such as Synchromism and Color Abstraction, American Cubism, and the influence of the landscape and culture of the Southwest (an issue that is explored in depth in the book's Illustrated Timeline). The Collection also highlights the contributions of immigrant artists – eight of the twenty artists were born outside the United States. The book is prefaced by a collector's statement from Ján Vilček and Marica Vilcek and has contributions by The Vilcek Foundation's President, Rick Kinsel, and Associate Curator, Emily Schuchardt Navratil.


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