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Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2021 : Cao Fei


Cao Fei has won the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2021 for her solo exhibition Blueprints (2020).

Cao Fei (b. 1978, Guangzhou), was announced as the 2021 winner of the prestigious £30,000 prize at a special ceremony at The Photographers’ Gallery, London, by the British broadcaster, journalist and filmmaker, Bidisha, on Thursday 9 September 2021.

The 2021 award, which also marks the 25th anniversary of this long-standing and prestigious annual prize, recognises artists and projects deemed to have made the most innovative and significant contribution to photography over the previous 12 months.

Cao Fei was awarded the prize for her first large-scale UK solo exhibition, Blueprints (2020), at the Serpentine Gallery, London (4 March – 17 May 2020 and 4 August – 13 September 2020). This immersive, site-specific presentation brought together new and existing works, including Whose Utopia? (2006), Asia One (2018) and La Town (2014) exploring the impact of technology, virtual realities, urbanisation and the alienating effects of mechanised labour on individuals and communities. Shown in an environment that blurred the boundaries of virtual, physical and cinematic spaces, Blueprints offered visitors multiple frames of experience through precisely crafted, visually lush narratives and propositions informed by a rich resource of references.

The presentation at The Photographers’ Gallery features her most recent film work, Nova (2019), alongside a selection of large-scale photographs and a publication, within a space that operates as part cinema, part stage-set, part traditional Gallery.

The 2021 Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize jury comprised: Cristina de Middel, artist; Simon Njami, independent curator, writer, lecturer and art critic; Anna Tellgren, curator of photography at Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Anne-Marie Beckmann, Director of the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation, Frankfurt; and Brett Rogers, Director of The Photographers’ Gallery as the non-voting chair.


The Photographer’s Gallery

16-18 Ramillies Street

London W1F 7LW


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