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Otobong Nkanga. Courtesy of the Henie Onstad Kunstsenter. Photo: Wim van Dongen. Courtesy of Henie Onstad Kunstsenter.
Otobong Nkanga. Courtesy of the Henie Onstad Kunstsenter. Photo: Wim van Dongen. Courtesy of Henie Onstad Kunstsenter.

Otobong Nkanga Wins Inaugural $100,000 Lise Wilhelmsen Art Award

The Henie Onstad Kunstsenter in Sandvika, Norway, revealed today that the Nigerian-born multidisciplinary artist Otobong Nkanga has been named the recipient of the inaugural Lise Wilhelmsen Art Award. Established by the art center and the Lise and Arne Wilhelmsen family, the $100,000 prize supports midcareer artists whose work inspires social change. In addition to the monetary award, the museum will mount an exhibition dedicated to the artist in the fall of 2020 and will acquire one of Nkanga’s works for its collection.

At an award ceremony at the Conduit in London on September 30, Tone Hansen, director of the art center, said: “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 Program, which celebrates the work of distinguished international artists, generating ongoing public engagement while encouraging conversations about the relevance and importance of contemporary art.”

Nkanga’s practice spans tapestry, drawing, photography, installation, video, and performance and examines ideas of land, home, displacement, and the material traces left by colonial export operations. The first UK survey of her work is currently on view at Tate St. Ives. On winning the prize, Nkanga said: “I am truly honored to be the inaugural recipient of the Lise Wilhelmsen Art Award Program 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.” 

The jury that selected Nkanga for the prize comprised Hansen; María Inés Rodríguez, editor of Tropical Papers and curator at large at the Museu de Arte de São Paulo; Michelle Kuo, curator of painting and sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and former editor in chief of Artforum; Elvira Dyangani Ose, director of the Showroom, London; Paulina Rider Wilhelmsen, founder of Wilstar Social Impact, Oslo; and Caroline Ugelstad, head of the art department and chief curator at the Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, Oslo.

Otobong Nkanga, The Weight of Scars, 2015. Installation view at MHKA, Antwerp, Belgium. Photo: Christine Clinckx - MHKA. Courtesy of theartist and Lumen Travo, Amsterdam, In Situ / Fabienne Leclerc, Paris and Mendes Wood DM, São Paulo, Brussels, New York.