Otobong Nkanga Wins $100,000 Nasher Prize for Sculpture

The Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas has awarded Antwerp-based artist Otobong Nkanga its Nasher Prize, which comes with $100,000 and an exhibition at the museum. Nkanga’s exhibition, which will be accompanied by a monograph, will open in April 2025.

The institution also announced that it would now award the prize, which goes to “a living artist who elevates the understanding of sculpture and its possibilities,” every two years instead of annually. This change was meant “to give the museum and the laureate more time to show works at the Nasher, produce a printed monograph, and better communicate their importance in the field of sculpture,” according to a release.

Working across various mediums and drawing on deep research she has conducted, Nkanga is best-known for large-scale installations and performances that look at humans’ relationships to the earth’s resources and how, through systems of capital and consumption, these ties are fragile, tenuous, and extractive.

In a statement, Nasher Sculpture Center director Jeremy Strick said, “The work of Otobong Nkanga makes manifest the myriad connections—historical, sociological, economic, cultural, and spiritual— that we have to the materials that comprise our lives. Delving deeply into the variegated meanings these materials take on, Nkanga’s work makes clear the essential place of sculpture in contemporary life.”

Her work has been featured in numerous international biennials, including the Documenta 14 in 2017, the 2022 Busan Biennial, the 2019 Sharjah Biennial, Manifesta 2017, and the 2019 Venice Biennale, for which she received a special mention for her participation in the main exhibition. Her work is currently the subject of a solo show at the IVAM Centre Julio González in Valencia, Spain. Other recent solo outings have been staged at the Castello di Rivoli in Turin (2021–22), the Gropius Bau in Berlin (2020), Tate St Ives (2019), the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa in Cape Town (2019), and Tate Modern in London (2015)

In the US, she had a solo show at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago in 2018, and has been featured in two group shows, “With Hunt” at the Hammer Museum in 2021 and “Black Melancholia” at Hessel Museum of Art at Bard College in 2022.

Nkanga was also the inaugural winner of the Lise Wilhelmsen Art Award Programme, which also comes with $100,000 and is administered by the Henie Onstad Kunstsenter in Norway. That award also comes with an exhibition, which opened in 2020.

Nkanga was selected by a jury that included artists Nairy Baghramian and Rashid Johnson, National Gallery of Art senior curator Lynne Cooke, art historian Briony Fer, MAXXI artistic director Hou Hanru, 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art director Yuko Hasegawa, Guggenheim Museum curator at large Pablo León de la Barra, Arts Council England chair Nicholas Serota, and Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, the outgoing director of the Castello di Rivoli.

In a statement, Fer said, “Otobong Nkanga maps urgent global problems but does so in subtle, enigmatic, and probing ways. She works with materials that draw on many different aspects of the world’s resources, and the complex histories of those materials are embedded in her works. The intense and productive way in which she presents formal and material questions is what marks out her huge contribution to sculpture right now.”