Photo Credit: Anish Kapoor Berlin
Anish Kapoor

The Genesis Prize Foundation this week announced that Anish Kapoor, known for his known for monumental-size works, has been named the 2017 Genesis Prize Laureate. Born in Bombay to a Baghdadi Jewish mother and Indian father, Kapoor moved to Israel at age 16 and has been based in the United Kingdom since the 1970s. He received a knighthood in 2013.

Kapoor is one of the most influential and innovative artists of his generation. His works include ‘Turning the World Upside Down’ at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, ‘Cloud Gate’ in Chicago’s Millennium Park and the ‘Orbit’ in London. Kapoor also created the Holocaust Memorial for the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in London and the 70 candles for Holocaust Memorial Day in Britain in 2015, commemorating 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.


Beyond his contributions to the arts, Kapoor, who won the Turner Prize in 1991, has a long history of social activism and a commitment to social justice. For many years, he has been a public advocate for the cause of refugees and an outspoken advocate for displaced people everywhere. Recently he visited Syrian refugees in the Za-atari refugee camp, as part of Unicef’s art therapy program, which is intended to help children who have witnessed atrocities to express themselves through art.

Established in 2012, the annual Genesis Prize has been dubbed by Time Magazine as the “Jewish Nobel”. Previous laureates are Michael Bloomberg, Michael Douglas and Itzhak Perlman.

The prize includes a $1 million award, which in the past has been matched with additional contributions from other philanthropists, including $2 million in 2015 and 2016 from Roman Abramovich.

It has become a tradition for the Genesis Prize Laureates to direct the $1 million award, as well as matching funds contributed by other philanthropists, to meaningful causes they feel passionate about. During the last three years, almost $10m has been raised to support philanthropic initiatives of the Genesis Prize Laureates.

The Laureates also commit to yearlong engagement initiatives developed jointly with the Genesis Prize Foundation. In the past, these have included causes ranging from support of social entrepreneurship based on Jewish values, inclusiveness of intermarried families in Jewish life, and improving the lives of individuals with special needs.

Kapoor will use his $1 million award – and the global platform provided by the Genesis Prize – to help alleviate the refugee crisis and try to expand the Jewish community’s engagement in a global effort to support refugees. More than 12.5 million Syrians have been displaced during the current conflict, of which around 2.5 million are children.

Stan Polovets, Chairman and co-founder of the Genesis Prize Foundation, said: “It gives us enormous pleasure to bestow this prestigious award upon Anish Kapoor. The profound impact of Anish’s work continues a long history of Jewish contribution to the arts, while his social activism reaffirms the commitment of the Jewish people to humanitarian causes. We particularly admire how, in an age frequently characterized by cynicism and indifference, Anish continually advocates for the world’s disadvantaged – challenging all of us to do more to help wherever and whenever we can. Anish’s commitment to alleviate the plight of Syrian refugees will resonate with the Jewish community, especially young Jews, everywhere.”

Natan Sharansky, Chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency and head of the Genesis Prize selection committee, said: “Throughout our history, the Jewish people suffered not only from active and violent anti-Semitism, perpetrated by a minority, but also from the indifference of the majority. It is this indifference that made persecution, massacres and the Holocaust possible. Anish Kapoor has campaigned against indifference his whole life. His message is clear, powerful, and inspiring.

“I am confident that Anish will use the Genesis Prize to build on the good work already being done by Jews in this area, and his voice and energy will help to focus more people on the need to alleviate the suffering of refugees.”