A conversation between the artist and Jordan Carter, Associate Curator, Modern and Contemporary Art, Art Institute of Chicago

Njideka Akunyili Crosby

Virtual Lecture


Drawing on art historical, political and personal references, Njideka Akunyili Crosby (Nigerian, born 1983) creates densely layered figurative compositions that, precise in style, nonetheless conjure the complexity of contemporary experience. Her cultural identity combines strong attachments to the country of her birth and to her adopted home in the U.S., a hybrid identity that is reflected in her work. Akunyili Crosby notes, “In much the same way that inhabitants of formerly colonized countries select and invent from cultural features transmitted to them by the dominant or metropolitan colonizers, I extrapolate from my training in Western painting to invent a new visual language that represents my experience—which at times feels paradoxically fractured and whole—as a cosmopolitan Nigerian.”


Akunyili Crosby’s work has been included in solo exhibitions at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas; National Portrait Gallery, London; Baltimore Museum of Art; Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, Florida; and the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. The artist participated in the 58th Venice Biennale in 2019. She is the recipient of a number of awards and grants including a MacArthur Fellowship, Prix Canson, and the Next Generation honor, New Museum, among others. From 2011–2012 she was an Artist in Residence at The Studio Museum in Harlem. In late January 2021, Akunyili Crosby’s work will be shown in the third of a trilogy of solo exhibitions curated by Pulitzer Prize-winning author and critic Hilton Als at the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut.


Sponsored by Richard Gleiner


© Brigitte Sire


Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Dwellers: Native One, 2019. Acrylic, photographic transfers, colored pencil, graphite, and collage on paper, 157.8 x 151.8 cm (62 1/8 x 59 3/4 in.) Private collection, promised gift to the Art Institute of Chicago. Image courtesy of David Zwirner, New York.