Yo-Yo Ma Receives Japan's Praemium Imperiale Award

The cellist is honored in the Music Category one of the world's largest and most prestigious art prizes

(Photo credit: Todd Rosenberg)


In its 32nd year, the Japan Art Association’s Praemium Imperiale awarded four recipients for their exceptional achievements, impact, and enrichment to the arts globally.

Each recipient receives an honorarium of $136,000, a medal, and a testimonial letter.

Yo-Yo Ma’s fellow laureates in their respective categories comprise Brazilian-French painter Sebastião Salgado, American sculptor James Turrell, and Australian architect Glenn Murcutt

The Theatre and Film category was not awarded this year due to the impact of the pandemic, where many of the candidates were unable to fulfill the category’s award requirements.

The Praemium Imperiale also recognizes a group or institution that encourages young people to engage in the arts. The 2021 Grant for Young Artists was awarded to Italy’s Advanced Training School of the Central Institute for Restoration, who will receive $45,000 and an official diploma for their achievement.

Due to concern for the health and safety of participants, an in-person award ceremony will not be held in Tokyo. Instead, each recipient will receive an award in October at the Japanese Embassy or Consulate General of Japan in the recipient's country of residence.

"This year's Praemium Imperiale laureates represent the pinnacle of artistic achievement in each of their fields and have inspired, engaged, and connected global communities through their exceptional talent, dedication and work," said Hisashi Hieda, chairman of the Japan Art Association. 

"We are deeply honored they have chosen to accept this year's award and join the distinguished past laureates who have redefined how the arts can build and shape a better world."

“I am deeply honored,” said Yo-Yo Ma in the press release. “I have tried to live not seeking honor but to do my best to live honorably, so to receive this unexpected honor is very humbling. 

“I can only accept by thanking those who have made me, helped form me, and helped me on a journey of exploration and discovery, and to them, I am deeply grateful," he continued. 

Previous winners of the award include Mikhail Baryshnikov, Ingmar Bergman, Shirin Neshat, Mona Hatoum, Leonard Bernstein, Judi Dench, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Phillip Glass, David Hockney, Steve Reich, Robert Rauschenberg, Ravi Shankar, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Billie Tsein, and Tod Williams.