Otobong Nkanga wins the inaugural Lise Wilhelmsen Art Award

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Artist Otobong Nkanga Winner of the inaugural Lise Wilhelmsen Art Award
Artist Otobong Nkanga Winner of the inaugural Lise Wilhelmsen Art Award

The Norwegian museum, The Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, has awarded its inaugural Lise Wilhelmsen Art prize of $100,000 to Nigerian-born artist Otobong Nkanga.

Besides the $100,000 prize money, the art award program comprises an exhibition in 2020, “programming at the museum and the possibility for work to be acquired for the institution’s permanent collection.” The prize was set up earlier this year by the museum in collaboration with the Dutch Businessman Arne Wilhelmsen in memory of his late wife.

The award with its combination of prize and exhibition program is explicitly designed to foster the careers of established artists. Days after the end of a global climate strike, the choice of the recipient also reveals an art world in tune with the major preoccupation of its time.

Even if the theme of displacement and the politics of representation have featured from time to time in her work, Otobong Nkanga has consistently returned to environmental issues. Her multidisciplinary artworks uncover a primary concern for issues that derive from human activities and the transformation of raw materials into a wide range of products.

Otobong Nkanga Masterplan, 2018
Otobong Nkanga Masterplan, 2018

On receiving the award, the artist expressed her hope that the prize “will enable [her] to work further on developing ideas, pursue dreams and have the time to reflect on topics that are inspiring [her]”.

2019 is turning out to be a momentous year for the artist, whose first museum survey in the UK, From Where I Stand, opened at Tate St Ives in September. The show encompasses new site-specific wall painting, that combined with her previous works, form a compelling commentary on the often-ignored realities of subterranean exploitation of natural resources.

Otobong Nkanga will hold a performance lecture followed by a conversation with Anne Barlow, Director of Tate St Ives, at Tate Modern in London on November 5th 2019.

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