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Sculptor Jaume Plensa takes Velázquez art prize

The artist is best known for his large-scale sculptures of letters and numbers

Sculptor Jaume Plensa. / Massimiliano Minocri

The Catalan sculptor Jaume Plensa has been named this year's recipient of the Velázquez art prize, the Minister for Education, Culture and Sport José Ignacio Wert announced Monday.

Born in Barcelona in 1955, Plensa is best known for his large-scale sculptures of letters and numbers, which only last year won him the National Arts Prize.

The Velázquez prize is worth 100,000 euros and is handed out annually by the Education, Culture and Sport Ministry in recognition of the career of a leading Ibero-American artist.

However, the award was not given in 2012 because of a reported boycott by the institutions responsible for proposing the members of the jury. The organizations had refused to provide names as a form of protest against the government's controversial 13-percent hike in value-added tax on the arts and cutbacks in cultural spending in Spain.

Plensa, who has his studio in Sant Feliu de Llobregat, Barcelona province, has a wide body of work behind him that takes in creations in cast iron, polyester, fiberglass, alabaster and wood, as well as graphic work.

His best-known pieces are perhaps the ones that adorn public spaces, such as Dream, a 20-meter-high head of a little girl with her eyes closed that sits atop a hill on the outskirts of St Helens, near Liverpool in the United Kingdom, or Crown Fountain in Chicago, a fountain featuring two tall screens showing images of local residents who spurt water out of their mouths.

Plensa's work has also been exhibited in Dubai, Boston, Paris, Rio de Janeiro and New York, among other places.

Previous recipients of the Velázquez art prize, which was created in 2002, are Spaniards Antoni Tàpies (2003), Antonio López (2006) and Luis Gordillo (2007) and Brazilians Cildo Meireles (2008) and, the last winner in 2011, Artur Barrio.

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