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Young Nigerian artist, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, becomes the 11th person to win the 2014 Smithsonisan American Art Museum‘s James Dicke Contemporary Artist Prize.

STORY Njideka Akunyili Prizewinner
LEFT TO RIGHT: Ajideka Akunyili Crosby, “The Beautyful Ones are Not Yet Born” Might Not Hold True for Much Longer. 2013. Acrylic and transfers on paper. The artist in her studio, image source: chikaoduahblog.com
The museum’s prestigious contemporary artist award was established in 2001 to recognize an artist younger than 50 who has produced a significant body of work and consistently demonstrates exceptional creativity. Previous winners of this award include Pierre Huyghe; Mark Dion; Jessica Stockholder; Andrea Zittel; Kara Walker; Rirkrit Tiravanija and Jorge Pardo.
Akunyili Crosby was selected by an independent panel of jurors who wrote in their decision,
“Her bold yet intimate paintings are among the most visually, conceptually, and technically exciting work being made today.”

Akunyili Crosby has also been selected for the New Museum Triennial, Surround Audience, curated by Lauren Cornell and Ryan Trecartin opening in New York on 25 February and continuing through 24 May 2015.

Informed by art historical and literary sources, Akunyili Crosby’s complex, multi-layered works reflect contemporary transcultural identity. Combining drawing, painting and collage on paper, Akunyili Crosby’s large-scale figurative compositions are drawn from the artist’s memories and experiences. She uses the visual language and inherited traditions of classical academic western painting, particularly the portrait and still life. Akunyili Crosby’s characters and scenes, however, occupy the liminal, in-between zone that post-colonial theorist Homi K. Bhabha refers to as ‘the third space’, a point of overlap, conflation and mixing of cultural influences specific to diaspora communities.

Njideka Akunyili Crosby nwantiniti 2012
ABOVE: Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Nwantinti. 2012. Acrylic, charcoal, coloured pencil, collage and Xerox transfers on paper.
Akunyili Crosby was born in Enugu, Nigeria in 1983, where she lived until the age of sixteen. In 1999 she moved to the United States. Her cultural identity combines strong attachments to the country of her birth and to her adopted home. This hybrid sense of self is reflected in her work which is populated with images of family and friends in scenarios with details derived from everyday domestic experiences in Nigeria and America. These include recollections from the formative years of her upbringing, as well as more recent relationships and experiences. Her work often features an element of self-portrait, as in a series of intimate scenes of the artist with her husband made in the early years of their marriage.

Her work is in the collections of major museums including Yale University Art Gallery, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, The Studio Museum in Harlem, The Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University and Tate. Akunyili Crosby currently lives and works in Los Angeles. She has most recently participated in Draped Down at The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York and Sound Vision at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina.

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