Every year at Davos, the Crystal Awards celebrate artists who not only excel in their art, but also help to improve the world around them.

This year, the awards recognized three exceptional cultural leaders: the Academy Award-winning actor and humanitarian Matt Damon; the opera tenor Juan Diego Flórez; and artist and filmmaker Shirin Neshat.

At a time of complex global challenges, it has never been more important to re-engage with our roots, traditions and cultures. All the artists we honour today have used their creativity to push limits and show us new ways for living our professional and personal lives.

Matt Damon, a passionate campaigner on the impact of the global water and sanitation crisis, co-founded Water.org. He said: “For me, ensuring that every human being has access to safe water and the dignity of a toilet – two incredibly basic and inextricably linked requirements for survival – is one of the most urgent and pressing causes in the world today. The good news is that there are solutions that work. I’m convinced that we can overcome the global water crisis in our lifetime.”

 Matt Damon

Matt Damon. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

Juan Diego Flórez, who founded Sinfonía por el Perú, which runs orchestras and choirs to help vulnerable young people, said that music is a powerful vehicle for change: “Sinfonia por el Perú reminds me every day of how music has changed not only my life, but also the lives of thousands of children, offering them a new future full of hope.”

Juan Diego Flórez.

Juan Diego Flórez. REUTERS/Pilar Olivares

Noted for her work in the fields of gender, power and displacement, Shirin Neshat said: “My art has stemmed from a desire to bridge deeply personal issues together with critical social, political, historical issues that concern the world that I inhabit.”

Shirin Neshat

Shirin Neshat. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

This year, the World Economic Forum welcomes over 35 distinguished artists and cultural leaders to Davos. These include:

David Adjaye, Architect, Adjaye/Associates, United Kingdom

Bono, Lead Singer of U2 and Co-Founder, ONE campaign and (RED), ONE, United Kingdom

Thomas Campbell, Director and Chief Executive Officer, Metropolitan Museum of Art, USA

James Cuno, President and Chief Executive Officer, J. Paul Getty Trust, USA

Matt Damon, Actor and Co-Founder Water.org, USA; Crystal Awardee 2014

Olafur Eliasson, Artist, Studio Olafur Eliasson, Germany; Young Global Leader Alumnus

Juan Diego Flórez, Tenor and Founder, Sinfonía por el Peru, Peru; Crystal Awardee 2014

Peter B. Gabriel, Founder, Real World, United Kingdom

Goldie Hawn, Actress, Producer, Author and Founder, The Hawn Foundation, USA

Mathieu Jaton, Chief Executive Officer, Montreux Jazz Festival, Switzerland

Shirin Neshat, Artist, USA; Crystal Awardee 2014

Martin Roth, Director, Victoria and Albert Museum, United Kingdom

Elif Shafak, Writer, Turkey

Anant Singh, Producer, Videovision Entertainment, South Africa

Marc Spiegler, Director, Art Basel, Switzerland; Global Agenda Council on the Role of the Arts in Society

Hilde Schwab is Chairperson and Co-Founder for the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship

Image: A visitor walks past a photograph by Shirin Neshat, Crystal Award winner. REUTERS/Brian Snyder