XXXV MASI PRIZE: WINNERS ANNOUNCED
Philharmonic Theatre - 1st October 2016

Three sections, five representatives of a strong cultural identity that through personal creative genius is capable of transmitting the essential virtues of a culture that looks to the future and embodies values that are profound and inexhaustible. This is the world of the Masi Prize, now in its XXXV edition, which announces today the winners who will officially receive their prizes on Saturday 1st October. The Masi Civiltà Veneta Prize goes to the visual artist Giosetta Fioroni, the cartoonist and illustrator Lorenzo Mattotti, and the playwright, actor and author Natalino Balasso. The Masi Civiltà del Vino Prize goes to the British popular philosopher Roger Scruton and the Grosso D’Oro Veneziano goes to the writer philosopher Ágnes Heller, famous for being the voice of Europe’s conscience.

“In this 35th edition, the Masi Prize reaffirms the strong identity of the Veneto, a territory that has always been open to Europe and the World, inclusively, and thereby succeeded in attracting talent and energy -  says Isabella Bossi Fedrigotti, president of the Prize organisers, the Masi Foundation, - as recipients of the Civiltà Veneta Prize this year, the jury has selected not only Natalino Balasso from Rodigo, but also two Venetians-by-adoption, Giosetta Fioroni and Lorenzo Mattotti, who have absorbed our values, chosen to settle in the region, and kept significant contact with their original territories of origin as well.”

Born to a family of artists, Giosetta Fioroni studies at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Rome. Always inclined to experimentation, she uses different media to express her art: from drawing to sculpture, from canvas to collage, even set pieces using ceramics. Giosetta Fioroni gets her Prize “for being an internationally famous visual artist, for her extraordinary capacity to mix materials and artistic languages in a magic and unmistakable style”. Her award coincides with the thirtieth anniversary of the death of Goffredo Parise, whose faithful companion she was since 1964, sharing with him the territory of the Veneto as her territory of the mind. Through her, the Masi Foundation wishes to remember and render homage to Parise, the Veneto’s great writer.

Lorenzo Mattotti turns the spotlight of the Masi Civiltà Veneta Prize on the art of a cartoonist and illustrator. The son of an army officer, he has lived in various places, but his education was at the Faculty of Architecture in Venice, after which he began work as the author of cartoon strips. He came to fame while living in Paris and his work has now been published in top daily papers and international magazines (including: Le Monde, The New Yorker, Das Magazin, Corriere della Sera and Repubblica). For the Masi Foundation, Lorenzo Mattotti “has succeeded in taking his detailed, dreamy cartoon work to France, the undisputed homeland of the bande dessinée, carving a place out for himself as one of the leading interpreters of contemporary design”.

Natalino Balasso, playwright, author and writer, “one of the most versatile and talented heirs of the Italian Commedia dell’Arte in its Venetian version, providing irresistible and intelligent comedy” is the final winner in the Civiltà Veneta section of the XXXV Masi Prize. Born in Porto Tolle (RO), Balasso – a self-taught artist – began by working in clubs and small theatres in Emilia Romagna at the end of the 1980s with acts that were surreally comic and futurist at the same time. In 1993 his small screen career began as the comic playwright for various programmes broadcast on Mediaset channels, which brought him to the attention of the general public. He’s also involved in the theatre where he is recognised as an extremely versatile actor.

The winner of the Masi International Civiltà del Vino Prize is the “pro Brexit” British philosopher, Roger Scruton. Academician, curator, publisher, lawyer and author of works on subjects spanning the worlds of aesthetics and ethics up to politics itself, Scruton “has provoked the intellectual world with his deeply-held polemical arguments for decades. His book ‘I drink therefore I am’ (2009) traces the history and the philosophical implications of a subject that forms one of the corner stones of western civilisation, highlighting its material and spiritual values”. Considered one of the most famous and influential contemporary conservative philosophers, Scruton uses his intellectual talent in the proposition and defence of western culture. In his oeno-cultural story every philosopher is provocatively compared to a wine in an exercise of dialectic irony that shows the centuries-old link between the gifts of Bacchus and culture, and highlights his talents as a populariser of philosophy.

The Grosso d’Oro Veneziano, the international Masi prize dedicated to personalities who have promoted the core values of society and civil life goes to a Hungarian. Philosopher and writer Ágnes Heller will add her autograph to the historic barrel of Masi Amarone, the symbol of the Prize. For the Masi Foundation jury, Ágnes Heller is “one of the most representative figures of European conscience, who from initial Marxist reflections on ethics and the family has developed a passionate and unceasing battle against inequalities due to gender, ethnicity or nationality, wherever and however they manifest themselves”. A Holocaust survivor, activist and convinced exponent of the Budapest School of thought, Marxism allied to the so-called “dissent of the countries of Eastern Europe”, Heller sees the explosive incoherence of European democracy and the rule of law not as offering “solutions, but highlighting contradictions”. Current ones as well. For Ágnes Heller “Human rights are de facto juridical inventions. Rights to nationality, however, are political judgments. The universalism of human rights is what opens the door to refugees, without making any distinction between immigrants and those who are fleeing war” (extract from interview with Heller published in Italy on 7th April 2016).

For the creator of the Prize, Sandro Boscaini, vice president of the Masi Foundation and president of Masi Agricola: “The Masi Prize has been interpreting the modernity of the values of the Venetian regions for 35 years, promoting diversity and enriching its cultural content. In these times of loss of national identity we need positive proponents of these values who are committed to their ideas and to their calling, capable of delineating a new and more promising picture of the future to young people."

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