LINE OF FIRE: The ninth edition of biennial art award Premio Furla was announced in Milan today. Fondazione Furla, which supports the event, has tapped American artist and poet Jimmie Durham as patron artist of the award. An international jury will select a winner to be announced on Jan. 25 in Bologna, in conjunction with the city’s international art fair Arte Fiera. The five finalists are: Tomaso De Luca; Chiara Fumai; Invernomuto /Simone Bertuzzi and Simone Trabucchi; Davide Stucchi; and Diego Tonus.

The artists are to create a project to be presented, along with a selection of their own work, to the public and the international jury during a collective exhibition titled “Add Fire.” The show is to be staged in the former Ospedale degli Innocenti in Bologna, a newly restored building, and will run until Feb.3. The jury includes high-profile art experts such as Galit Eilat, president of Akademie der Kunste der Welt, and John Peter Nilsson, director of the Moderna Museet of Malmo.

Furla chairman Giovanna Furlanetto underscored the relevance of the award in terms of quality and continuity. “It’s been a learning curve for me, too, and the award has accompanied the continuous evolution of art,” said Furlanetto. “I’m interested in knowing in what direction artists are moving and evolving. We’ve seen it through the years of the award, from paintings or photography, to Web art, videos, performances and multi-sensorial installations. There is a strong evolution every two or three years and an acceleration.” Furlanetto also lauded the “Add Fire” title. “There is a need to fuel passions in all fields, especially in Italy and Europe, where, with our slow pace, we pale in comparison to the new East,” she said.

For his part, Durham said he chose the theme “Add Fire” in response to the timidity he sees among young artists, who are pessimistic about their ability to change the world. “We need more spirit,” he said. The artist, who said he doesn’t like “to feel at home,” has spent time in Mexico, Ireland, France, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Sweden and Portugal in addition to his native U.S., and has lived in Rome for the past five years. Previous Premio Furla patron artists included Christian Boltanski, Marina Abramovic and Michelangelo Pistoletto.

 The award is a good way to encourage young artists, Durham said. “Most of my young students are extremely good artists. Most of the art I see in galleries is extremely bad. I don’t know how to put these two things together,” he said, adding: “It’s a problem we have now, where to see the good stuff.”

The winner will have the opportunity to see his or her work previewed at the Fondazione Querini Stampalia in June 2013, during the 55th Biennial of Visual Arts in Venice, and will secure a residency that, for this edition, will take place at the WIELS Contemporary Art Centre in Brussels.