Mama Cash Art Award

Many submissions
In 1991, through the Culture Fund, Mama Cash set up the Art Award, an initiative by founder Dorelies Kraakman. Each year, two Dutch visual artists were received a 5,000 guilders (2,400 euros) award. At first, Mama Cash chose to support artists who had already been professionally established for several years. Women artists who had been working for a while and who had not immediately advanced to the top had a hard time receiving financial support. Also, there were other organisations supporting younger talented artists, Mama Cash reasoned. Later on she changed her point of view as well as her awards. In addition to the Mama Cash Art Award of 8,000 guilders (3,800 euros), she established a ‘Baby Cash Incentive Award’ of 3,000 guilders (1,400 euros) dedicated to supporting young talented women. The Art Commission, consisting of artists and staff members of Mama Cash, reviewed 150 to 200 submissions with unremitting dedication each year. Johanna, a member of the network of Women with Inherited Wealth, financed most of the exhibitions that showcased the work af the nominees.

Power of expression
A professional attitude, the authenticity and originality of their work, as well as artistic quality and development of each artist were important factors when making a decision. Nancy Jouwe, Manager of the Culture Fund and member of the Art Commission from 1997: ‘The jury did not specifically focus on the role of women in the works of art. We preferred to concentrate on the work itself and on the power of expression and the artistic capabilities of the participating women. However, I have always been drawn to art exploring the artist’s identity’.

Self-willed works of art
In January 1998, Mama Cash organised the retrospective art exhibition ‘Mama Cash Art Award 1991 – 1997’ as part of her 15th anniversary. The Amsterdam artist club Arti et Amicitiae showed the work of the winning artists from the past seven years. Some artists and media mockingly referred to the Mama Cash Art Award as a ‘chick prize’. Art historian and journalist Wilma Sütö wrote in the exhibit catalogue that the artists deserved to be looked at without prejudice. She complimented the Mama Cash jury for choosing ‘self-willed works of art’, meaning that they were cheeky and precocious in nature. The exhibition and catalogue were partly subsidised by the Mondriaan Foundation, the ASN Bank, the Amsterdam Fund for the Arts, and VSBfonds.

Important factor
According to Nancy Jouwe, the Mama Cash Art Award has been important to the community of women artists. Several winners of the award received national and international acknowledgement. Examples are Louise Schouwenberg, Sara Blokland, Jeanne van Heeswijk and Hadassah Emmerich. ‘As women artists established themselves within the art community, our chick prize wasn’t required anymore’, Jouwe says. (watch interview) The last Mama Cash Art Awards were given in 2004.