Playwright Arthur Miller finally gets to accept prize

Thursday, September 5, 2002

— Calling the arts "a highway into the soul of the people," playwright Arthur Miller accepted an international prize, an honor deferred once by Sept. 11 and a second time by the illness of his late wife.

A six-nation panel of advisers gave Miller its Praemium Imperiale prize Tuesday to honor a body of work that has spanned more than half a century and that includes "Death of a Salesman" and "The Crucible," both standards of American theater.

The panel was to announce the award last Sept. 14 in France but canceled after the September terrorist attacks. Miller missed the October award ceremony in Tokyo because of the sudden illness of his wife, photographer Inge Morath, who later died.

He accepted the prize Tuesday at a special luncheon in Manhattan, delivering a short speech on the power of the arts to unlock the secrets of global cultures.

"When the cannons have stopped firing, and the great victories of finance are reduced to surmise and are long forgotten, it is the art of the people that will confront future generations," he said. "The arts can do more to sustain the peace than all the wars, the armaments and the threats and the warnings of the politicians."

The Praemium Imperiale is given each year to five artists � one each in painting, sculpture, architecture, music and theater/film. Advisers from Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States pick the winners. Past honorees have included Jasper Johns, I.M. Pei, Leonard Bernstein and Federico Fellini.

The 2002 winners will be announced later this month and honored next month in Tokyo.

The prize includes an award from the Japan Art Assn. of 15 million yen, or about $128,000.

Miller, a winner of the Pulitzer Prize, is renowned for plays that elegantly depict human struggle and despair. His other work includes "All My Sons," "A View From the Bridge" and "The Misfits," written in 1961 for then-wife Marilyn Monroe.

He was married to Morath, an Austrian-born photographer who won international prizes in her own right, for 40 years. She died in January at age 77.