We are pleased to announce that Dustin Thierry is the recipient of the first edition of The Berry Koedam Award. This award is created by our institution, formerly known as Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, in partnership with Mrs. Berry Koedam of the ramfoundation in Rotterdam. It is part of a new awards program created in celebration of our institution’s thirtieth anniversary, focusing on our cultural ecosystem. The awardee receives a cash gift of €5,000.

The Berry Koedam Award especially honors creators whose visual documentation of artworks and exhibitions, art events, and artistic communities in the Netherlands have captured a sense of our times. The award recognizes the image-makers of this kind of documentation, which has for over a century helped give visibility to the work of artists and art institutions. It also recognizes the important role that visual documentation—often published and circulating without proper credit—has in significantly promoting an understanding of contemporary art.

Created in 2020, the focus of The Berry Koedam Award is unique. It has been created through a partnership between Berry Koedam and our institution. The founder of the ramfoundation and a former art gallerist in Rotterdam, Berry Koedam has given visibility to the work of artists in The Netherlands for over 30 years, significantly promoting the understanding of contemporary art herself. She remains an active supporter of contemporary arts today and, since our opening in 1990, she has also been one of our institution’s frequent visitors.

Dustin Thierry, the awardee of The Berry Koedam Award, was selected through a nomination and jury process overseen by our institution. Nominations of image makers were made by museum professionals, editors of magazines and newspapers, as well as visual artists and independent curators. Portfolios by nominated artists were reviewed and discussed by a jury, which was convened by our institution. The jury members were Matthew Antezzo, photography expert based in Amsterdam; Samira Benlaloua, founding editor of Extra Extra journal in Rotterdam; and, Martijn van Nieuwenhuyzen, director and chief curator, De Pont Museum in Tilburg.

The jury identified that the work of the nominees could be, by and large, grouped in two types: on the one hand, work by photographers who were commissioned by institutions to document artworks and projects, as well as exhibitions and performances; on the other hand, self-initiated work by artists that documented art communities and featured portraits of artists, art scenes, and events. In this sense, portfolios of some of the nominated artists documented environments of contemporary art institutions and the art industry at large; some portfolios portrayed artistic communities and documentation of events associated to both official and unsanctioned cultural spaces.

The jury decided that, in its first edition, The Berry Koedam Award should recognize self-initiated work, and particularly pay attention to issue-based projects. They stated, “We chose to award an image maker whose work is socially oriented, and not just produced for institutional documentary purposes. We chose Dustin Thierry, because his work is both interesting and beautiful, and because it contributes to vital discussions about identity politics and community engagement in our times. We recognize and appreciate Dustin Thierry’s contemporary photographic vision and as a first recipient of the award, we feel it is representative of a forward-looking approach.”

Dustin Thierry’s reviewed portfolio included work from his photographic series Opulence. Begun in 2013, this series documents the ballroom scene in Amsterdam, among other cities. Healing is at the heart of Thierry’s work. His projects stem from probing the internal questions he is asking of himself, as well as the external questions he asks of the world. In his approach, Dustin embodies the fact that portraiture itself is a relationship: his gaze is loving, and the result is restorative and generative for himself, his community, and society at large. Dustin Thierry was born in Curaçao in 1985; he lives in The Netherlands since the age of 14. His work is currently on exhibition at the Van Abbemuseum in The Netherlands.