Lise Wilhelmsen Art Award

Otobong Nkanga Receives Inaugural Lise Wilhelmsen Art Award

In addition to the prize, there is an acquisition budget for the inclusion of the artist’s work in the Henie Onstad Kunstsenter collection, and Otobong Nkanga will feature in a dedicated exhibition that will take place in autumn 2020, as part of a two-year programme with the museum.

Portrait of Otobong Nkanga. Photo by Wim van Dongen

Portrait of Otobong Nkanga. Photo by Wim van Dongen

Nigerian-Belgian Otobong Nkanga, whose first UK show opened last week at Tate St Ives, is the winner of the inaugural Lise Wilhelmsen Art Award Programme.

The award grants the artist a prize sum of 100,000 USD, a solo exhibition at the Henie Onstad Kunstsenter in Norway in the autumn of 2020, and an acquisition budget allowing for Otobong’s work to be included in the museum’s collection. The biennial award is a partnership between the Lise and Arne Wilhelmsen family and the Henie Onstad Kunstsenter.

Tone Hansen, Director of the Henie Onstad Kunstsenter,  noted: “Otobong Nkanga is an artist of unshakeable integrity and vitality. The impact we have upon our environment and one another constitutes the essence of her work. She is a wonderful choice as inaugural artist for the Lise Wilhelmsen Art Award Programme, which celebrates the work of distinguished international artists, generating ongoing public engagement while encouraging conversations about the relevance and importance of contemporary art.”

Otobing Nkanga’s multi-disciplinary practice, which spans tapestry, drawing, photography, installation, video and performance, connects threads that reveal the entanglements of bodies, land and natural resources. Her work reflects on the processes and consequences of the extraction of natural resources from ethical, human and material perspectives. She explores the transformation of natural substances, such as minerals, into desirable commodities as a commentary on the value placed on material culture, often at the expense of the environment.

On winning the award, Otobong Nkanga said: “ I am truly honoured to be the inaugural recipient of the Lise Wilhelmsen Art Award Programme and to exhibit next year in the Henie Onstad Kunstsenter. The award will enable me to work further on developing ideas, pursue dreams and have the time to reflect on topics that are inspiring me.”

Otobong Nkanga’s exhibition at the Henie Onstad Kunstsenter in Norway will take place in autumn 2020, as part of a two-year programme with the museum.

The winner of the Lise Wilhelmsen Art Award Programme is decided by an international jury, composed of María Inés Rodríguez , Editor of Tropical Papers and Curator at Large at MASP, São Paulo; Michelle Kuo , The Marlene Hess Curator of Painting and Sculpture at MoMA, New York; Elvira Dyangani Ose , Director of Showroom, London; Paulina Rider Wilhelmsen , Founder of Wilstar Social Impact, Oslo; Caroline Ugelstad , Head of the Art Department and Chief Curator at the Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, Oslo; and Tone Hansen , Director of the Henie Onstad Kunstsenter.

On the selection, the jury noted: “Otobong Nkanga was selected because her work and practice so poignantly and effectively address the contradictions inherent in humanity’s most celebrated characteristics: imagination, creativity and the ability to respond to and engage with the world around us. In the 21s t century, humankind has gradually come to realise the immeasurable force and impact of its existence, not only on cultural, social and economic systems, but also on our planet. Nkanga brings a new perspective to these subjects while creating poetic paintings and sculptures of an extraordinary quality.




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