The prizes, created in 1989 and carrying an award of 15 million yen (currently about US$128,000) each, are given annually by the Japan Art Association for outstanding achievement in five fields not covered by the Nobel Prizes: music, painting, sculpture, architecture and theater/film.
Among previous winners of the music Praemium Imperiale are Pierre Boulez, Leonard Bernstein, Mstislav Rostropovich, Ravi Shankar, Oscar Peterson, Ornette Coleman, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Claudio Abbado and Martha Argerich. Winners in other fields have included choreographers Merce Cunningham, Maurice B_jart and Pina Bausch; filmmakers Federico Fellini, Akira Kurosawa, Jean-Luc Godard and Abbas Kiarostami; actor John Gielgud, theater luminaries Arthur Miller, Peter Brook, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Stephen Sondheim; painters Jasper Johns, Willem de Kooning and Ellsworth Kelly; sculptors Issey Miyake, Richard Serra and Christo & Jeanne-Claude; and architects I. M. Pei, Frank Gehry, Richard Meier, Rem Koolhaas and Norman Foster.
The other winners of the 2006 Praemium Imperiale are sculptor Christian Boltanski of France, painter Yayoi Kusama of Japan and architect Frei Otto of Germany. The gold medals will be formally awarded by Prince Hitachi of Japan in a ceremony on October 18 in Tokyo.
In addition, the Japan Art Association announced a special award of 5 million yen (currently about US$43,000) to the National System of Youth and Children's Orchestras of Venezuela, the organization which Simon Rattle has called "the most important thing happening in music anywhere in the world" and which produced the young star conductor Gustavo Dudamel.