On 5 June (the anniversary of Friedländer’s birth), the Staatliche Museen’s Kupferstichkabinett awarded the newly founded prize named in Friedländer’s honour. The prize will be awarded every two years and comes with €15,000 in prize money. A fund has been set up guaranteeing the award for at least the next ten years. The founder of the prize is the former publisher, art collector, and patron of the arts Christoph Müller. In an official statement he explained what drove him to set up the award:
'As the founder of a prize in honour of Max J. Friedländer, I have long felt the need to do something to pay tribute to the man who was director of the Kupferstichkabinett for so many years (1908-1930) and later acting director of the Gemäldegalerie (1930-33), especially when one considers that, compared to Wilhelm von Bode, far too little is known, among the general public and scholars alike, of both Friedländer the man and the significant historical role he played in making the Staatliche Museen what it is today. In the academic art world, Friedländer (1867-1958) continues to dominate the field as the most-cited reference for knowledge relating to all periods of early Netherlandish art. And, as a brilliant stylist, he remains a timeless role model to this day. His essayistic masterpiece 'Von Kunst und Kennerschaft’ (or 'On Art and Connoisseurship’) is a compendium that provides masterful and - more to the point - accessible insight into all matters relating to art. Upon the release of the slim volume in 1946, comparisons were drawn between its author and other pioneering thinkers of the German-speaking world, such as Sigmund Freud, Albert Einstein, Max Weber, and Albert Schweitzer, with Friedländer then heralded as a 'great model of our times’.
Prize-winners are chosen by a jury from a selection of candidates proposed by third-parties (as opposed to direct applicants). The criteria up for consideration include completed achievements or well-advanced projects, dealing either with the collection of Berlin’s Kupferstichkabinett or Friedländer’s life’s work. The prize is also specifically aimed at museum curators of early Netherlandish art or particularly gifted authors working in related areas.
The current three-person jury, consisting of the award’s sponsor, the Kupferstichkabinett’s director, and its curator of Netherlandish art, have chosen the first winner: the writer Simon Elson. Born in Hamburg in 1980 and resident in Berlin since 2001, Elson studied art history and literature at Humboldt-Universität, where he graduated in 2008 with a thesis on the concept of 'visual culture’. Elson writes art reviews and posts for German and English-language art blogs and also translates science fiction stories. He has received various scholarships, including, in 2013, the first scholarship in cultural history from the Villa Grisebach auction house, awarded for his work on the biography of Max J. Friedländer.