The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art will hold its fourth annual African Art Awards on Friday, Oct. 25, at 8 p.m. Recognizing the best in contemporary African art, this event honors the achievements of global contemporary artists Njideka Akunyili Crosby and Elias Sime. Both artists use principles of connection to express critical viewpoints, further influencing the way the world experiences the dynamic and diverse arts of Africa.
The awards reception will take place in the museum on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Tickets are available on the museum’s website or by phone at (202) 633-3773 beginning Sept. 1. Guests will enjoy a reception menu designed by Senegalese chef Pierre Thiam, presentation of the African Art awards, and live entertainment. The African Art Awards is the premier annual event designed to promote the museum’s mission.
“We are delighted to recognize the outstanding achievements of Njideka Akunyili Crosby and Elias Sime, two remarkable artists whose beautifully realized and compelling works of art explore the inter-connectivity of our world,” said Gus Casley-Hayford, the director of the National Museum of African Art. “Both artists focus on the personal and societal impact of connection as they work with materials evocative of contemporary renewal, reuse and hybridity. Engaging our visitors in understanding the aesthetic achievements of historic and contemporary African artists is at the heart of our museum’s mission. We are delighted to have works by these extraordinary artists on view while our museum undergoes its own process of physical renewal, and also as we share our future plans to connect more with our global audience.”
The 2019 Awardees
Njideka Akunyili Crosby (b. 1983, Enugu, Nigeria) is a visual artist working primarily in mixed-media paintings and collage, where she connects visual cues from Nigeria, Los Angeles and elsewhere to represent the hybrid experience of people who move, travel and share experiences across borders. She describes her work as creating “a very active space where cultures come together to create something new.”
Akunyili Crosby currently lives and works in Los Angeles. She recently received an honorary doctorate from her alma mater Swarthmore College and is the recipient of a 2017 MacArthur Fellowship, among many other prizes and awards. She also has completed several public projects, including an outdoor mural for MOCA Los Angeles Grand Avenue (2018–19) and Remain, Thriving (2018), a public work commissioned for Brixton Underground Station (2018–19).
Akunyili Crosby has exhibited extensively around the world. Her work, Wedding Souvenirs, is included in the museum’s permanent collection and current exhibition “I Am . . . Contemporary Women Artists from Africa,” which is on view through July 5, 2020. She will be the subject of a solo exhibition at the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven in 2020, the third in a trilogy of shows curated by Pulitzer Prize-winning author and critic Hilton Als.
Elias Sime (b. 1968, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia) is a multidisciplinary artist working primarily in relief sculpture and architecture. For more than 25 years, the artist has made collage and sculptural assemblages from found objects such as stripped motherboards from mobile phones, discarded computer hardware, thread, buttons, plastic, animal skins, horn and organic building materials and binding agents such as mud and straw. He meticulously weaves, layers and assembles these found materials into abstract compositions suggestive of aerial landscape, figuration and color field painting. Sime looks past the emotional weighting of new versus old, instead finding renewal everywhere, and taking greatest interest in the way that objects and ideas can connect in new ways.
As an extension of his art making, Sime is involved in the exploration of vernacular architecture. Working with curator and anthropologist Meskerem Assegued, Sime co-founded, designed and built the award-winning Zoma Museum in Addis Ababa, an environmentally conscious international art center with facilities that include a gallery space, library, children’s center, edible garden, elementary school, art and vernacular school, amphitheater, café and museum shop.
Sime has exhibited extensively around the world. The National Museum of African Art will feature a monumental installation of Sime’s work in the museum’s entry hall, which will be on view beginning in mid-October and celebrated at the fourth annual African Art Awards event. In early September, the Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art at Hamilton College will present “Elias Sime: Tightrope,” marking the artist’s first major museum survey. On view from Sept. 7 through Dec. 8 at the Wellin, the exhibition will subsequently travel to the Akron Art Museum in Akron, Ohio (Feb. 29May 24, 2020), the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, Missouri (June 11–Sept. 13, 2020), and the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Canada (Dec. 12, 2020–April 18, 2021).
About the National Museum of African Art
The National Museum of African Art is the only museum in the world dedicated solely to the collection, conservation, study and exhibition of Africa’s arts across time and media. The museum’s collection of over 12,000 artworks represents the diversity of the African continent and includes a variety of media—from sculpture and painting, to photography, pottery, jewelry, textile, video, and sound art. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free. The museum is located at 950 Independence Avenue SW, near the Smithsonian Metrorail station on the Blue, Orange and Silver lines. For more information about this program, call (202) 633-4600 or visit the museum’s website at africa.si.edu. For general Smithsonian information, call (202) 633-1000.
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