Consumption: Prix Pictet at the V&A

Since 2008, The Prix Pictet rewards international photographers for their engagement with environmental issues and sustainability. This year, the 11 shortlisted artists present their works at the Victoria and Albert Museum, in an exhibition that question our behaviour and habits towards consumption.

Here is a selection of the most interesting works:

Adam Bartos, Yard Sale
Adam Bartos, Ernie & Mattress, n.d.
Adam Bartos, Ernie & Mattress, n.d.

Unless most of the other artists presented in this exhibition, who adopt a rather pessimist and critical look towards the consumer society, this American artist chose to document a more positive action in our daily lives: the yard sake. According to him, this practice is very popular in some region of the United States and helps to recycle objects by giving them a second life.

“At a yard sake, the everyday items are arranged by their owners in a series of constantly shifting still lifes, impermanent compositions of old things looking for new owners and new life.”

Visit the artist’s website.

Rineke Dijkstra, Almerisa
Rineke Dikjstra, Almerisa,  1994-2008
Rineke Dikjstra, Almerisa, 1994-2008

Almerisa is the name of a young girl the Dutch artist met in a refugee centre in Leiden. Over the years, the artist documented the growth of Almerisa in a totally new world for her. The series of photographs depicts important moments of transition but also shows how she had to adapt to the current trends in order to merge into the society. This is a more personal statement which analyse the repercussions of massive consumption over the social body, which has to transform rapidly and on a larger scale.

Visit her artist’s page on the Marian Goodman Gallery website.

 Hong Hao, My things
Hong Hao, Bottom No. 4, 2009
Hong Hao,
Bottom No. 4,

This work is a long-lasting one, started in 2001 by the Chinese artist and executed without any camera. The result is surprising and the accumulation of object makes us realise how important is our consumption: hundreds of objects from books to empty packaging or old household appliances.

 “Day by day, I put the objects I consumed into a scanner. Piece by piece, they became a visual diary. (…) This task has become my daily habit as well as a tool to observe the human condition in contemporary consumer society”.

Visit the artist’s page on the Pace Gallery website.

 Mishka Henner, Beef & Oil
Mishka Henner, Coronado Feeders, Dalhart, Texas, 2013
Mishka Henner,
Coronado Feeders, Dalhart, Texas, 2013

Her works are maybe the more abstract ones: you cannot tell what they depict unless you get closer to the photographs and analyse them (reading the works’ description might be of some help as well!). In this series, the American artist takes aerial shots of large food industry lands organised to meet the large demand of consumers. The distant abstract compositions reveal how human beings are transforming natural landscapes in more and more artificial and over-productive places.

Visit her website.

And the winner is:

Michael Schmidt, Lebensmittel
Michael Schmidt, Lebensmittel, 2006-2010
Michael Schmidt, Lebensmittel, 2006-2010

This series, also presented at the last Venice Biennale and in some other galleries across Germany, won this year Prix Pictet. The word ‘series’ has a great importance here. Even though each photograph can be read on its own, it’s their gathering that enables us to draw parallels and to get all the depth of such a project. The final product vs. the process to obtain it. The appealing burger or the nicely packed piece of meat vs. the horrified look of the pig waiting to be slaughtered. Pictures speak for themselves.

Visit his artist’s page on the Nodenhake Gallery website and have a look to his publication.

For more information about the exhibition and artists, visit the website of the Prix Pictet.


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