History of the Award

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The ZVONO Award

Sarajevo Center for Contemporary Arts, together with Foundation for Civil Society, New York, Trust for Mutual Understanding, New York, established annual prize for young visual artists up to 35 years of age, ZVONO award.


In 1990, when Václav Havel, Jiří Kolář and Theodor Pištěk founded the Jindřich Chalupecký Award, their expressed goal was to create a prestigious award in Czechoslovakia that would recognize young artists under 35 and expose them to the larger world. They particularly wanted them to travel to the United States whose vibrant cultural scene had been denied to most contemporary artists in communist Czechoslovakia. Today the Chalupecky Award has become one of the most prestigious “places” in Czech contemporary art, and one of the most valuable professional references to the former winners, not only in Czech Republic but also in the international art scene.

The founders and the original committee had initiated something much larger than an annual award and fellowship for a young Czech artist. First, when Slovakia became independent, a “sister” award—now called the Oskár Čepán Award—was born. The attractive model of the Chalupecký and Čepán Awards sparked interest with the Centers for Contemporary Art in countries further to the south and east. With funding from the Trust for Mutual Understanding (TMU), Wendy Luers, president of the Foundation for a Civil Society in New York (FCS), which has organized the US fellowships since 1990, traveled to the Balkans in the late 1990s. New awards mushroomed in the newly independent states of the former Yugoslavia—first in Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro, followed soon by Kosovo and Macedonia. In 2006—again with funding from TMU—two other countries had joined the circle known as the Young Visual Artists Awards (YVAA) program: Bosnia and Herzegovina and Slovenia. The new comer in 2008 was Bulgaria.

The highly successful Chalupecký model has been replicated in all the other countries: a transparent competition for artists under 35, decided by an independent and changing jury, an exhibition of the award finalists at a prestigious gallery or museum, an award ceremony, and a travel fellowship to the United States followed by a solo exhibition of the winner upon his/her return.

Until 2014, the residency in the United States has been a six-week stay in New York with a studio at the International Studio and Curatorial Program ISCP for each of the winning artists. The Foundation for a Civil Society administers the residencies and the Trust for Mutual Understanding has been their dedicated funder since the beginning when they started with the Chalupecký Award.

In 2015 FCS and TMU appointed Residency Unlimited the new partner to organise and supervise the travel fellowship. The residency in New York from 2016 in some countries will be held biennial – so in Albania, Bosnia-Herzegowina, Kosovo, and Macedonia –, while the residency in New York will last 2 months.


In each participating country the Award is named after one person or artist’s group deserving to the development in the field of Modern or Contemporary Art.

SCCA decided that the name of the Award would be ZVONO as a tribute to the artist’s group formed in Sarajevo in 1982 and active until the outbreak of war in 1992.

Its members were Biljana Gavranović, Sadko Hadžihasanović, Sejo Čizmić, Narcis Kantardžić, Kemal Hadzić and Aleksandar Saša-Bukvić (considered being the initiator of the group’s collaborative work and the driving force behind its organization and promotion). Most of these artists had graduated from the newly established Academy of Fine Arts in Sarajevo. The group was named after the Zvono café (Zvono/The Bell) in which these artists met.

Well-informed about current artistic ideas, not yet accepted and recognized into the infrastructure of the existing art system they started to exhibit and present their works and performances in the most out-of-the-ordinary places: in bars, in the streets, in stadiums and shop-windows. This was, up to that time, the most radical behavior ever in Bosnia and Herzegovina modern art. “It is as if these artists set out from the supposition that everything that didn’t actually happen in our history of modern art can be compensated for in one furious panther-like jump/gesture…” Meanwhile, their stadium games, parodies and parties, that merry search for generational self-identification, must be separated from their individual search for their own plastic forms and poetics. In their individual works, they brought the formal characteristics of the “New Image” of the eighties.


The aim is to provide support to young creative artists and facilitate the continuation of their activities by shifting them from the marginal to a central role in a society by creating a positive context for the young art, creativity and innovativeness with which society could and should identify.

The important features of the Award are the openness and the public accessibility of the contest, as well as the accessibility to public scrutiny of the entire organization of the contest for the young artist, while the Jury composed of experts has to guarantee that the award winner is selected in a fair way, without prejudice, and that the decision on the winner rests entirely upon professional considerations.

The contest has to be selective and prestigious, for the artists as well as for all other participants.

The project of the Award has been conceived as a new and prestigious point of gathering of the most creative forces of contemporary scene, locally, where the award is being awarded, but also regionally, in the countries where the award is acknowledged.

All awarders of those prizes are committed to provide opportunities for all participants to make contacts with each other, with the intention to intensify cooperation and exchange of experience among the young contemporary artists from participating countries.


  • The invitation to the contest for the award is announced in the public media.
  • The awarders considers for the award only visual artists up to 35 years of age.
  • The award is awarded for works of art in the field of painting, sculpture, graphics, drawing, installation, photography, video, new media and performance.
  • The award is not concerned with the applied arts, design, theater and film.
  • Visual artists may apply for the contest on their own or can be nominated by institutions, individuals, professionals from the field of the visual arts or other citizens.
  • The candidates need not be citizens of the award’s country but their artistic development and career must have been formed there. As with emigre artists, they should be members of the artistic community and regularly exhibit in the country.
  • The basis of selection is quality and innovativeness in the works of art created in the last two years.
  • The award consists of a 8 weeks residency in New York and solo exhibition upon return of the award winner from USA. Solo exhibition of the award winner is shown with each winner in an other exhibition space and city of Bosnia-Herzegowina. The exhibition has to present the experience acquired during the residence in US.
  • The selection of the award winner is deliberated in two cycles. In the first cycle the Jury screens all applications and nominations received and select among them the 4 finalists. In the second cycle the Jury, composed of the same members, select the award winner in the exhibition, announce and justify their choice at the opening of the exhibition for the public.  


  • Is awarded to one artist only.
  • The award winner is obliged to travel to and reside in USA in a specific period of time, which is regulated by a contract between the Sarajevo Center for Contemporary Arts and the award winner.
  • During a 8 week’s residence in New York the award winner has the opportunity to meet the establishers and founders of ZVONO award of New York, Trust and Mutual Understanding and Foundation for Civil Society and show his or her work to them.
  • During this week the artist is provided by a series of opportunities to visit the key institutions, museums and galleries, Metropolitan Museum of Art, MoMa, Whitney Museum, and attend to cultural events in the city and many other events which are important for the life of the city.
  • The award winning artist is obliged to appear in the awarded solo exhibition after his or her return from USA according to the agreement between the winner of ZVONO award and the Sarajevo Center for Contemporary Arts.


Jury is composed by 5 members from the the international contemporary art scene. The Jury members are recognized professionals in the field of visual arts (the artists, art historians, art critics, curators). They are independent in their decision making. At least two members of the Jury will be exchanged every year.hashflate