Artist Dossier: Njideka Akunyili Crosby
by Ladun Ogidan
Born in 1983 in Enugu, Njideka Akunyili Crosby lives and works in Los Angeles, California. Her works on paper combine collage, drawing, painting, printmaking and photo transfers. Crosby negotiates the cultural terrain between her adopted home in America and her native Nigeria, creating autobiographical works 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. Crosby’s personal imagery transcends the specificity of individual experience and engages in a global dialogue about trenchant social and political issues. A hallmark of her compositions is the layering and collaging of small photographic images. Many of the images used are from Nigerian magazines or taken by the artist with her own camera during visits to Nigeria. She photocopies pictures from various sources such as wedding albums and magazines and transfers them to paper using acetone solvent.
In June 2017, she was awarded the Prix Canson, for works on paper, and in October she was awarded a 2017 MacArthur Fellowship. Typically awarded to about 20 American artists, academics, writers, and scientists each year, the $625,000 no-strings-attached grant is given to “talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction,”
In November, she was shortlisted for the 2017 Future Generation Art Prize, worth $100,000. That same month, her 2012 painting Drown, acrylic, coloured pencil and solvent transfer on paper, 152.4 x 182.9cm, sold at Sotheby’s for just under $1.1m, more than five times its estimate at $200,000-300,000. In another impressive turn out on March 7 at Christie’s London The Beautyful Ones, 2012, acrylic, pastel, colour pencil and Xerox transfer on paper, 243 x 170cm, previously estimated between $488,800-$733,200, sold for $3,075,774 (including fees).
In 2018, the auction price for a painting by Akunyili Crosby climbed a bit higher with Bush Babies previously estimated between $600,000-800,000 and sold for $3,375,000 including fees at Sotheby’s New York, a new artist record at Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction on May 16, 2018, in London. Bush Babies was on view during Prospect.4: The Lotus in Spite of the Swamp (Nov. 18, 2017-Feb. 25, 2018), the recent New Orleans triennial.
With this rising appreciation of her art, as well as organised solo shows and projects at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Florida, the Whitney Museum in New York, and the Hammer Museum and Art+Practice in Los Angeles, Akunyili shows no sign of slowing down.
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