California-based artist Narsiso Martinez has been named the winner of Frieze’s Impact Prize for his work addressing the immigrant experience within the U.S agriculture industrial complex, the organization announced Thursday.
Martinez will be awarded $25,000 and his work Sin Bandana, a series of 12 charcoal portraits of farm workers, will be featured at this year’s edition of Frieze Los Angeles next week.
According to Frieze, Impact Prize winners are chosen for their “impact on contemporary art and society.” Martinez’s work is a powerful reminder of how vital Central and South Americans living in the United States are to California and to the agriculture industry. According to the Center for Farmworker Families, between one third and one half of all farmworkers in the US live in California and roughly 75% of California farmworkers are undocumented.
Martinez’s work has been acquired by multiple museums, including the Hammer Museum, Orange County Museum of Art, and Amon Carter Museum of American Art.
His work has also been a source of inspiration for collectors who, spurred by the global upheaval in 2020 resulting from George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police officers, began to purchase more socially and politically inspired art.
Ellen Friedman, a collector based in Southern California who has been buying art for nearly 30 years, purchased one of Martinez’s works from Charlie James Gallery in 2020. At the time, it was the first work she had purchased in two years.
“I read about the artist [though] Charlie James Gallery. The story was just very moving. It’s talking about the Latinx community and farmworkers’ rights—made on apple boxes. I wanted to change the direction of the work we collect,” she told ARTNews at the time.
“We are thrilled to recognize Narsiso Martinez as the winner of the Frieze Impact Prize. His work is truly impactful, both in terms of its aesthetic power and its ability to spark important conversations about the experience of Mexican immigrants and the challenging work conditions they face,” Romola Ratnam, senior vice-president and head of impact and inclusion at Frieze’s majority stakeholder, the entertainment and media conglomerate Endeavor, told ARTnews.
The portraits that comprise Sin Bandana, which are executed on discarded produce boxes collected from grocery stores, draw on Martinez’s personal experience as a farm worker and sheds light on the people behind the work that fills produce sections and restaurant kitchens across the U.S..