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Ai Weiwei and Anish Kapoor walked through London 2015
In 2015, Ai Weiwei and Anish Kapoor walked through London to show solidarity with refugees around the worldPhotography Niklas Hille'n/AFP/Getty Images

Anish Kapoor pledges $1m prize money to refugee crisis

‘I am an artist, not a politician, and I feel I must speak out against indifference for the suffering of others’

On Tuesday, artist Anish Kapoor announced he would donate a $1 million (£800,000) prize to help people who have fled war or persecution after he was named a recipient of the Genesis Prize – dubbed the Jewish Nobel Prize – for his commitment to Jewish values. 

A statement released by the prize detailed its admiration for the artist’s continued commitment to the world’s disadvantaged, adding that Kapoor “challenged all of us to do more to help wherever and whenever we can”.

Kapoor’s “re-gifting” of the prize money came one day before the government announced it would no longer accept unaccompanied child refugees from Europe.

Stan Polovets, chairman and co-founder of the Genesis Prize Foundation, congratulated Kapoor: “We particularly admire how, in an age frequently characterised by cynicism and indifference, Anish continually advocates for the world's disadvantaged – challenging all of us to do more to help wherever and whenever we can. Anish's commitment to alleviate the plight of Syrian refugees will resonate with the Jewish community, especially young Jews, everywhere.”

Kapoor said, “To lose one’s home, one’s land, one’s sense of belonging, is bewildering. All that is left is one’s body … how long before – for so many – even that is lost? I am an artist, not a politician, and I feel I must speak out against indifference for the suffering of others.

“I believe that in the current political climate the world over, it is more important than ever that we continue to stand against the abhorrent government policies that are an offence against our ethics and the very tenets of what it means to be human.”

The Mumbai-born artist has lived in Britain since the 70s and was the 1991 winner of the coveted Turner Prize. Raised by an Iraqi-Jewish mother and Indian father, Kapoor has been incredibly vocal – alongside friend and fellow artist Ai Weiwei – about “abhorrent government policies” towards refugees. In September 2015, the two artists walked hand-in-hand from London's Royal Academy to the Kapoor’s “Orbit” sculpture in Stratford to show their compassion and commitment to the refugee crisis, in which thousands of Londoners joined them. Kapoor described it at the time as, “an act of solidarity and minimal action – we like that spirit.”

Founded in 2012, the Genesis Prize has previously been awarded to Michael Bloomberg, Michael Douglas and Itzhak Perlman.

Further details on Kapoor’s “re-gifting” program will be announced by June 2017.