Actress Sophia Loren among Japan art prize winners

Italian actress Sophia Loren was on Tuesday awarded the Japan Art Association's Praemium Imperiale, one of the most lucrative prizes in the arts world.

Two more Italians also won the prize - artist Enrico Castellani, known for his "paintings of light", and Milan-born pianist Maurizio Pollini - as did German sculptor and installation artist Rebecca Horn and Japanese architect Toyo Ito.

Each winner of the annual award, backed by Japan's imperial family, will receive 15 million yen (179,000 dollars) at a ceremony in Tokyo on October 13.

The Praemium Imperiale has been awarded in the five disciplines of painting, sculpture, architecture, music and theatre/film since 1989.

It was created in 1988 in honour of the late Japanese Prince Takamatsu, who served as honorary patron of the private association for 58 years until his death in 1987.

"The artists are recognised and awarded for their achievements, for the impact they have had internationally on the arts, and for their role in enriching the global community," the association said in a statement.

Previous recipients of the prize include painters Jasper Johns and Willem de Kooning, architects Frank Gehry and I.M. Pei, filmmakers Federico Fellini and Akira Kurosawa, playwright Arthur Miller and sitarist Ravi Shankar.

Loren, turns 76 next week, is "called 'the Sun of Italy' for her wild beauty and for the past sixty years has continued to make her presence felt globally in the cinematic world," the association said.

Pollini, 68, was awarded the prize for his worldwide fame and popularity with both audiences and critics, while Horn, 66, was lauded as an "artist of transformation" whose body of work develops "stories that have welled up from within, reflecting her desire for communication and interaction".

Ito, 69, is "both constantly innovative and globally influential" and has a "strong interest in the relationships between architecture, nature and the environment," the association said.

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