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Njideka Akunyili: Making An Art Statement

Njideka Akunyili Crosby was born in Enugu in 1983. Her mother, Professor Dora Akunyili, is the former Director-General of NAFDAC (National Agency For Food And Drug Administration Control). After attending Queens College, Lagos, luck shined on her when her mother won the US lottery enabling her move to the Swarthmore College in Philadelphia. In 2004, she proceeded to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and moved on to the Yale University School of Art where she got awarded a Master of Fine Arts degree.

WESTWOOD, CA – OCTOBER 10: Njideka Akunyili Crosby attends the Hammer Museum Gala in Garden sponsored by Bottega Veneta at Hammer Museum on October 10, 2015 in Westwood, California. (Photo by Donato Sardella/Getty Images for Hammer Museum)

Upon graduation in 2011, Akunyili was selected as artist-in-residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem. While there, she experimented with drawing and figure painting while studying contemporary art, postcolonial history and diasporic studies. In 2015, a curator Jamillah James organised her first solo exhibition at the Hammer Museum. James went on to organise another exhibition in Los Angeles earning Akunyili, her recognition. The New Yorker describes her works as “layered in her works by collage and acetone-transfer prints, creating a fabric of images throughout her paintings”.

In 2016, Financial Times named Akunyili Crosby Woman of the Year.” That same year, the “Victoria Miro” art gallery gained interest in her works and started representing her. Also, another exhibition was held at the Norton Museum of Art, Florida.

In 2017 Akunyili Crosby won the McArthur Genius grant which made her N225million richer. In 2018 Akunyili Crosby designed the mural at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

Akunyili Crosby made history early this month when one of her works Bush Babies sold for N1.2 billion instead of the 289 million estimated by Sotheby making it the most expensive art sold at an auction. At the moment, over 20 art museums have been put on the waiting list for her works.

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