Ebecho Muslimova has been named the 2022 recipient of the Borlem Prize, awarded annually since 2021 to an artist whose work draws attention to mental health issues. She will receive an unrestricted grant of $20,000, with the same amount donated in her name to the charity of her choice, which the prize organizers stipulate must be in the service of suicide prevention or mental health advocacy. Muslimova selected the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline as the recipient of the donation. The prize was founded by collector, composer, and researcher Roberto Toscano in honor of his late brother, Fernando Toscano (1986–2018).
The New York–based Muslimova, who earned her BFA from Cooper Union, is well known for her work centering around the fictional character Fatebe, an alter-ego she created while in college to absorb her anxieties and to function as a surrogate, or avatar, for the artist in day-to-day life. Curvy, confident, exaggeratedly sexual, and always depicted in the nude, the cartoonish Fatebe embodies both a zest for living and the rejection of societal standards attendant upon the female body and of the sexual mores imposed upon women.
“I am immensely honored to receive the Borlem Prize,” said Muslimova, citing the occasion as “a special opportunity to bring attention to the essential work of the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. The cruel illusion of suffering alone must be dispelled,” she continued. “Suicide only magnifies pain and creates a ripple effect of suffering.”
The prize jury this year was chaired by Alex Gartenfeld, artistic director of the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, and additionally composed of Elena Filipovic, director of the Kunsthalle Basel; independent curator and historian Mark Godfrey; Hou Hanru, artistic director of MAXXI in Rome; Gianni Jetzer, curator-at-large for the Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC; Luigia Lonardelli, a curator at MAXXI; and Evrim Oralkan, cofounder and CEO of online digital museum Collecteurs.
Describing himself as “delighted” that Muslimova was named the winner of the prize, Gartenfeld noted that her “work in drawing and painting provocatively explores complex psychological states. With humor, intelligence and invention, Ebecho’s work empowers viewers to ask questions and think critically about the body, intimacy, and the fraught experience of being alive.”