December 13, 2014 - Smithsonian American Art Museum - Njideka Akunyili Crosby wins the 2014 James Dicke Contemporary Artist Prize
December 13, 2014

Njideka Akunyili Crosby wins the 2014 James Dicke Contemporary Artist Prize

Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Nwantinti, 2012. Acrylic, charcoal, colored pencil, collage and transfers on paper. Image courtesy of Marc Bernier. © Njideka Akunyili Crosby.

James Dicke Contemporary Artist Prize 2014: Njideka Akunyili Crosby

Smithsonian American Art Museum
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Njideka Akunyili Crosby is the 2014 winner of the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s James Dicke Contemporary Artist Prize. The 25,000 USD award recognizes an artist younger than 50 who has produced a significant body of work and consistently demonstrates exceptional creativity. It is intended to encourage the artist’s future development and experimentation.  

The independent panel of jurors who selected Akunyili Crosby are Thelma Golden, director and chief curator of The Studio Museum in Harlem; Byron Kim, artist; Harry Philbrick, The Edna S. Tuttleman Director of the Museum at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; Walter Robinson, artist, critic and founding editor of Artnet Magazine; and Sheena Wagstaff, the Leonard A. Lauder Chairman of modern and contemporary art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Joanna Marsh, The James Dicke Curator of Contemporary Art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, coordinated the jury panel selection, and the nominating and selection process for the award.

The jurors wrote in their decision, “Njideka Akunyili Crosby’s nuanced work reflects the increasingly transnational nature of the contemporary art world. Akunyili Crosby sensitively negotiates the cultural terrain between her adopted home in America and her native Nigeria, creating collage and photo transfer-based paintings that expose the challenges of occupying these two worlds. She has created a sophisticated visual language that pays homage to the history of Western painting while also referencing African cultural traditions. Akunyili has a striking ability to depict deeply personal imagery that transcends the specificity of individual experience and engages in a global dialogue about trenchant social and political issues. Her bold yet intimate paintings are among the most visually, conceptually, and technically exciting work being made today.”

Akunyili Crosby creates vibrant paintings that weave together personal and cultural narratives drawn from her experience as a Nigeria-born artist living in the United States. She uses an array of materials and techniques in each of her autobiographical works. Collage and photo-transfer provide texture and complexity to the surface of each composition in which photographs from family albums mingle with images from popular Nigerian lifestyle magazines. This varied and inventive use of media serves as a visual metaphor for the intersection of cultures as well as the artist’s own hybrid identity.

Akunyili Crosby was born in 1983 in Enugu, Nigeria. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Swarthmore College in 2004, then studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts before earning a master’s degree in fine arts from Yale University in 2011. She has participated in numerous exhibitions in the United States and abroad, including most recently Draped Down (2014) at The Studio Museum, Sound Vision (2014) at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and Bronx Calling: The Second Bronx Biennial (2013) at the Bronx Museum. Akunyili Crosby is represented by the Victoria Miro Gallery in London.

In addition to Akunyili Crosby, the 2014 nominees were Cory Arcangel, Trisha Baga, Paul Chan, Barnaby Furnas, Theaster Gates, KAWS (Brian Donnelly), Josiah McElheny, Dave McKenzie, Julie Mehretu, Frances Stark, Swoon (Caledonia Curry), and Mickalene Thomas. 

The Smithsonian American Art Museum’s award to a contemporary artist has been presented 11 times since 2001. Previous winners were Kathy Butterly (2012); Pierre Huyghe (2010); Mark Dion (2008); Jessica Stockholder (2007); Matthew Coolidge, director of the Center for Land Use Interpretation (2006); Andrea Zittel (2005); Kara Walker (2004); Rirkrit Tiravanija (2003); Liz Larner (2002); and Jorge Pardo (2001). Artists must be nominated by a juror to be considered for the award; there is no application.


Njideka Akunyili Crosby wins the 2014 Smithsonian American Art Museum’s James Dicke Contemporary Artist Prize
Smithsonian American Art Museum
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