Adjani Okpu-Egbe wins the inaugural Ritzau Art Prize

Adjani Okpu-Egbe, Takumbeng’s Creed, Ambazonian Fortress (Diptych), 2019, mixed media on wooden door panels. 74.8 x 59.8 x 1.6 in. (200 x 152 x 4 cm). Image courtesy of the artist.

The International Studio & Curatorial Program (ISCP) and 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair are delighted to announce the inaugural recipient of the Ritzau Art Prize, Cameroonian painter and installation artist Adjani Okpu-Egbe (b. 1979), whose raw, expressive art investigates African colonial history and political activism. Due to restrictions brought on by COVID-19, the prize announcement originally scheduled for May 7, 2020, at The Caldwell Factory in New York will be made online today on 1-54.com and @154artfair. A special event for the artist will take place during the 2020 edition of 1-54 London, scheduled October 8 to 11.

Beginning in 2020, and over a three-year, annual cycle, the award will provide global visibility, professional development, and career-enhancing residencies in New York City to three promising visual artists from the African continent. The prize was initiated by ISCP in collaboration with 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair and is funded by Tauck Ritzau Innovative Philanthropy.

“Mr Okpu-Egbe’s sensitive, politically charged work unfolds a range of issues, and we are delighted he is the inaugural recipient,” said Colleen Ritzau Leth, Vice President at Tauck Ritzau Innovative Philanthropy. “The contemporary African art scene is vibrant and expansive, and the creation of the prize builds on a commitment at our foundation to provide young African artists with cross-cultural opportunities and increased exposure to the international art community. Art, and especially in this uncertain time, brings people together, and we look forward to celebrating his extraordinary art practice this October in London.”

Afro-Expressionist Okpu-Egbe, using a sensitive and energetic visual language that incorporates autobiography, explores the realm of social justice movements. His paintings and works on found objects address themes such as the complex legacy of colonialism in his native Cameroon, the self-declared state of Ambazonia, and beyond.

Okpu-Egbe will participate in ISCP’s art residency program from October to December 2020. He will benefit from 24-hour access to a private studio, participation in the program’s well attended Open Studios, meetings with visiting critics, opportunity to speak about his art and practice in an ISCP public talk, and field trips alongside 34 peers from at least 25 different countries at any given time, among other benefits. ISCP’s residencies focus on building community and professional discourse among residents. With an open-door policy and monthly events including lunches, internal critiques, and gallery walks, residents are provided space and platform to share their work. After leaving the residency, Okpu-Egbe will join an even larger network of over 1,450 ISCP alumni in over 85 countries.

The artist was competitively selected by the 2020 inaugural cycle of distinguished contemporary African artists and specialist jurors: Omar Berrada, writer, curator, and director of Dar al-Ma’mûn; Adrienne Edwards, Engell Speyer Family Curator and Curator of Performance at the Whitney Museum; and Olu Oguibe, artist. An open call took place with the criteria that applicants be visual artists whose work is exhibited at 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair’s New York edition in 2020. Factors considered in the jurying process included excellence of work and potential for career impact on the awarded artist and their greater networks.

The shortlisted artists for the 2020 Ritzau Art Prize are Anjel (Boris Anje), represented by Out of Africa Gallery, and Sungi Mlengeya, represented by Afriart Gallery.