It started out as a collaborative project between HM Queen Sonja and Norwegian artists Kjell Nupen and Ørnulf Opdahl at Atelje Larsen in Helsingborg, Sweden in 2011.
Together they created the impressive print portfolio Three Journeys – Three Landscapes. This project resulted in the capital base that established the Foundation.
For Her Majesty, the project was inspired by many years of longing for the possibility to hand out an award to young artists. After decades of supporting art and culture, The Queen was finally able to establish a scholarship to support the art of printmaking. In January 2011, HM Queen Sonja established the Foundation for the Queen Sonja Nordic Art Award, in cooperation with Kjell Nupen, Ørnulf Opdahl and Ole Larsen.
The award was originally a Nordic art award created to generate interest in and promote the development of printmaking. All nominated candidates were selected from the five Nordic countries, and the first award was presented to the Finnish artist Tiina Kivinen in 2012.
Two years later, at the award ceremony in 2014, Her Majesty announced that the Queen Sonja Nordic Art Award was to become an international distinction, and the name was changed to Queen Sonja Print Award. Upon entering the international arena, the award grew in both size and reputation. The first international award was presented to the US artist Tauba Auerbach in 2016 – up against 30 fellow nominees representing five continents.
As the Queen Sonia Print Award went international, Her Majesty introduced the Kjell Nupen Memorial Grant in 2014. The grant was established in commemoration of Kjell Nupen – who passed away earlier that year – and was to be presented bi-annually to an emerging Nordic artist demonstrating excellence in graphic art. The first Kjell Nupen Memorial Grant was awarded to Danish artist Adam Saks in 2015. The grant is a collaboration between the HM Queen Sonja Art Foundation and master printer Bill Goldston at Universal Limited Art Editions (ULAE) in New York. Artists are nominated by art academies and printmaking organisations in their respective countries, and the board of the Foundation is responsible for selecting the recipient. The grant has later been renamed the QSPA Inspirational Award.
In 2018, the QSPA Lifetime Achievement Award was introduced to celebrate an artist’s career and lifetime contribution to graphic art and printmaking. The first QSPA Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to David Hockney for his distinguished contribution to fine art printmaking.
Today, the Queen Sonia Print Award has become the world’s leading award for graphic art. Artists from all over the world are nominated for this prestigious prize, reflecting the breadth of contemporary printmaking around the world. The HM Queen Sonja Art Foundation has developed a strong professional profile by collaborating with international art institutions and curators around the world. With a network of international experts and highly recognized jury members, the award hopes to continue reaching strikingly talented artists who can carry the award forward and make it the most prestigious printmaking prize in the world.
2021 marks the 10-year anniversary of the Queen Sonja Print Award. It has been an amazing journey that would not have been possible without the support from our partners, volunteers, friends and followers. Their contributions – small and large – help bring the Foundation’s vision to life. The 10-year anniversary will be marked with the opening of QSPA Bispevika –an important milestone on the mission to raise public awareness of and increased interest in graphic art. By creating a meeting place that offers unique and high-quality fine art prints, Bispevika will highlight the exclusive quality that exists in graphic art today and make it more available to people.