Njideka Akunyili Crosby

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Njideka Akunyili Crosby
Njideka Akunyili in Bronx Museum.png
Njideka Akunyili 2014
Njideka Akunyili

NationalityNigerian, American
Alma mater
Notable work
I refuse to be Invisible
Awards2017 Genius Grant

Njideka Akunyili Crosby (born 1983) is a Nigerian-born visual artist working in Los Angeles, California. [1] Akunyili Crosby's art "negotiates the cultural terrain between her adopted home in America and her native Nigeria, creating collage and photo transfer-based paintings that expose the challenges of occupying these two worlds".[2] In 2017, Akunyili Crosby was awarded the prestigious Genius Grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.[3]


Njideka Akunyili was born in 1983 and raised in Enugu, Nigeria.[4][5] She is of Igbo descent. One of six siblings, Akunyili Crosby's father was a surgeon and her mother was a professor of pharmacology at the University of Nigeria.[6] She moved to Lagos when she was ten years old to attend the secondary school Queen's College (QC) Yaba, Lagos. Her mother won the U.S. green card lottery for the family enabling Akunyili Crosby and her siblings to study abroad.[6]

Two years later, at the age of 16, she left home with her sister, Ijeoma, and moved to the United States. She spent a year studying for her SAT's and taking American history classes before returning to Nigeria to serve a year of National Service. After she completed her service, she returned to the United States to study in Philadelphia. She graduated Swarthmore College in 2004, where she studied art and biology as a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow.[7] She was at first getting pre-medical requirements to pursue a career in medicine before deciding to pursue art. [8] After graduating in 2004, she studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. This is where she earned a post-baccalaureate certificate in 2006.[4] She later attended the Yale University School of Art, where she earned a Master of Fine Arts degree.[9][10]

She is married to Justin Crosby, who is also an artist. [1] Their son, Jideora, was born in 2016. She has formed friendships and traded work with other artists such as Wangechi Mutu and Kehinde Wiley [1]


After graduating from Yale in 2011, Akunyili Crosby was selected as artist-in-residence at the highly regarded Studio Museum in Harlem, known for promoting and supporting emerging African artists.[11] During this residency she met her mentor, New-York based artist, Wangechi Mutu.[1] She spent her year of residence experimenting with drawing, figure painting, studying contemporary art, postcolonial history and diasporic studies.[10]

In 2015, Jamillah James, a former Studio Museum in Harlem curator and at the time, assistant curator at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, organized Akunyili Crosby's first solo exhibition at the Hammer Museum.[4] That same year, James organized another exhibition of Akunyili Crosby's work at Art and Practice in Los Angeles.[10]

Also, in 2016, Akunyili Crosby was named Financial Times Woman of the Year." [12]

In 2016, a solo exhibition of Akunyili Crosby's work was held at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Florida.

In 2017 Akunyili Crosby won the MacArthur Fellowship Genius grant.[13]

In 2018 Akunyili Crosby designed the mural that wrapped the Museum of Contemporary Art, Grand Avenue, Los Angeles. The mural features her characteristic style of combining painting with collage, printmaking, and drawing to create intricate, layered scenes. She was the second artist to create a mural for the site under a new initiative by the museum.[14]

Art Market[edit]

Akunyili Crosby has been represented by Victoria Miro Gallery since 2016[10] and by David Zwirner Gallery (since 2018).[15][16]

By 2016, demand for the Akunyili Crosby’s work, which she produces slowly, far outweighed supply, prompting her prices to soar at auction.[17] She became one of the artists featured in Nathaniel Kahn's 2018 documentary The Price of Everything where she discusses her career and attitude to her art market.[18] It culminated with her painting Drown being sold at Sotheby's contemporary art auction in November 2016 for $900,000. In March 2017, a work by Akunyili Crosby titled The Beautyful Ones was sold by a private collector for $3 million at Christie's London.[19]


While attending Queens College, Akunyili Crosby was exposed to even more Nigerian, British, and American popular culture which contributed to the similarities between her work and the work of pop-culture artists.[20] Akunyili Crosby cites classic and contemporary painters Édouard Vuillard and Chris Ofili as influences. She also draws on her experience as a Nigerian woman living in America in her work.[10] This concept of integrating African intimacy with western painting, was introduced to her through the work of Kerry James Marshall.[1] Artist Wangechi Mutu influenced her to use many images to create built another. [1] She has incorporated photo transfers and fabrics to bring in different aspects such as hair styles, fashions, architecture, and furnishings from the two cultures [21] She is influenced by writer Chinua Achebe whose focus on changing the English language to fit his culture is interpreted through Akunyili Crosby's artwork.[22] Other influences, such as J.D Okhai Ojeikere and Malick Sidibé, are fine art photographers.[20]


She uses photos she has taken herself in Nigeria along with family photos and pages from popular Nigerian magazines.[20] The photos "are layers in her work by collage and acetone-transfer prints, creating a fabric of images throughout her paintings". [23] Her primary mediums include collage, photo transfer, acrylic paint, charcoal, fabric, and colored pencil. Along with strong Nigerian influence, her style is also derived from pop culture, personal experience, and western academia. [24] However, her work cannot be categorized as either American nor Nigerian, but rather the work is an autobiography based on her "character that doesn't fit into a box." [23]

Selected exhibitions[edit]


  • The Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University
    • "Reality of My Surroundings: The Contemporary Collection" October 1, 2016 – July 10, 2016
      • Presented ""The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born" Might Not Hold True For Much Longer, 2013"[31]
  • Yale University Art Gallery
    • "The Rest of Her Remains, 2010"[32]
  • San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
    • "Janded, 2012" [33]
    • "Wedding Portrait, 2012" [34]
  • The Whitney Museum of American Art
  • Perez Art Museum Miami The Metropolitan Museum of Art
    • "Within Genres Collection" August 25, 2017 – August 19, 2018
      • Presented "See Through, 2016"[36]
  • The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
    • "I Always Face You, Even When it Seems Otherwise, 2012"[37]
  • The Studio Museum in Harlem
    • "Nwantinti, 2012"[38]
  • The Tate Modern The New Church Museum, Cape Town
    • "Our Lady" November 11, 2016-June, 2017
      • Presented "Mama, Mummy, and Mamma, 2014"[39]
  • Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town
    • "Sunday Morning, 2014"[40]
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art
    • "Bush Girl, 2015"
    • "I Still Face You, 2015"
    • "I See You In My Eyes, 2015"[41]
  • Albright-Knox Art Gallery The Norton Museum of Art
    • "The Beautyful Ones Series #5, 2016"[42]
  • Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
    • MOCA Mural: Njideka Akunyili Crosby[43]
    • "Give and Take: Highlighting Recent Acquisitions"
      • Presented "Garden, Thriving, 2016"[44]
  • The Smithsonian National Museum of African Arts[4]
    • "Wedding Souvenirs, 2016"[45]

Awards and recognition[edit]

Books and exhibition catalogues[edit]

  • 2016 Brutvan, Cheryl, Njideka Akunyili Crosby:I Refuse to be Invisible, West Palm Beach: Norton Museum of Art, 2016.
  • 2015 Cornell, Lauren, and Helga Christoffersen, ed. Surround Audience: New Museum Triennial 2015. New York: Skira Rizzoli Publications, Inc., 2015.
  • 2013 Baptist, Stephanie, ed. Njideka Akunyili & Simone Leigh: I Always Face You, Even When it Seems Otherwise. London: Tiwani Contemporary, 2013.
  • 2013 Merjian, Ara H. Vitamin D2, London: Phaidon, 2013.
  • 2013 The Bronx Museum of Arts, Bronx Calling: The Second AIM Biennial. New York: The Bronx Museum of the Arts, 2013.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Solway, Diane. "Nigerian Painter Njideka Akunyili Crosby Tells an Afropolitan Story in America". W Magazine. Retrieved 2019-04-12.
  2. ^ a b c d "Njideka Akunyili Crosby Is the 2014 Winner of the Smithsonian American Art Museum's James Dicke Contemporary Artist Prize". Smithsonian Newsdesk. The Smithsonian. Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  3. ^ Michel, Karen. "MacArthur 'Genius' Paints Nigerian Childhood Alongside Her American Present". NPR. Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  4. ^ a b c d "Njideka Akunyili Crosby CV". Njideka Akunyili Crosby. Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  5. ^ Phaidon Editors (2019). Great women artists. Phaidon Press. p. 28. ISBN 0714878774.
  6. ^ a b Solway, Diane. "ToggleWmagazine FASHION BEAUTY CULTURE SUBSCRIBE Njideka Akunyili Crosby - September 2017 - Transcend Nigerian Artist Njideka Akunyili Crosby Is Painting the Afropolitan Story in America". W Magazine. Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  7. ^ "Swarthmore MMUF Fellow Njideka Akunyili Crosby Named MacArthur Fellow". mmuf.org. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. 22 October 2017. Retrieved 9 April 2018.
  8. ^ Ando, Erica. "Njideka Akunyili Crosby". Bomb Magazine. Retrieved 28 February 2019.
  9. ^ a b "Artist Njideka Akunyili Crosby '04 Named a Woman of the Year". Swarthmore College. Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  10. ^ a b c d e Steadman, Ryan. "The Complicated Beauty of Njideka Akunyili Crosby". The Observer. Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  11. ^ "Artists in Residence", Studio Museum Harlem, Retrieved 25 November 2018.
  12. ^ "Swarthmore College". www.swarthmore.edu. Retrieved 2018-08-06.
  13. ^ a b "MacArthur Foundation". www.macfound.org. Retrieved 2018-02-24.
  14. ^ "MOCA Mural: Njideka Akunyili Crosby". The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Retrieved 2018-03-09.
  15. ^ Henri Neuendorf (November 9, 2018), David Zwirner Gallery Will Represent Market Darling Njideka Akunyili Crosby in Asia and the US artnet.
  16. ^ Anny Shaw (July 26, 2019), Are exotic islands and big bucks the way to an artist’s heart? The Art Newspaper.
  17. ^ Henri Neuendorf (November 9, 2018), David Zwirner Gallery Will Represent Market Darling Njideka Akunyili Crosby in Asia and the US artnet.
  18. ^ Lang, Brent (January 16, 2018). "Sundance: HBO Buys "Price of Everything"". Variety. Retrieved February 9, 2018.
  19. ^ "Njideka Akunyili Crosby Painting Sells for Record $3.1 Million at Christie's, Nearly Three Times Her Previous High Mark". Retrieved 2019-03-21.
  20. ^ a b c Zelt, Natalie (August 8, 2018). "Picturing an Impossible American: Njideka Akunyili Crosby and Photographic Transfers in Portals" (PDF). De Gruyter.
  21. ^ "FOCUS". the modern.org. The Modern. Retrieved 12 April 2019.
  22. ^ a b Ando, Erica (15 September 2016). "Njideka Akunyili Crosby". Bomb Magazine.
  23. ^ a b Dedieu, Jean-Philippe. "Njideka Akunyili Crosby's Intimate Universes". The New Yorker. Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  24. ^ "Studio Museum Awards 2015 Wein Artist Prize to Njideka Akunyili Crosby". Retrieved 2019-04-06.
  25. ^ "Portraits and Other Likenesses from SFMOMA". SFMOMA. Retrieved 2018-02-24.
  26. ^ "Artist Njideka Akunyili Crosby On Her Billboard Project, Before Now After May 27, 2016". Whitney.org. Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  27. ^ "Njideka Akunyili Crosby - Contemporary Arts Center". www.contemporaryartscenter.org. Retrieved 2018-03-09.
  28. ^ "Opener 30 Br Njideka Akunyili Crosby Predecessors - Tang Museum". Tang Museum. Retrieved 2018-03-09.
  29. ^ "Front Room: Njideka Akunyili Crosby/Counterparts". Baltimore Museum of Art. Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  30. ^ "Side by Side". SFMOMA. Retrieved 2018-02-24.
  31. ^ "Reality of My Surroundings: The Contemporary Collection - Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University". Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. Retrieved 2018-02-24.
  32. ^ "The Rest of Her Remains". artgallery.yale.edu. Retrieved 2018-02-24.
  33. ^ "Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Janded, 2012". SFMOMA. Retrieved 2018-02-24.
  34. ^ "Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Wedding Portrait, 2012". SFMOMA. Retrieved 2018-02-24.
  35. ^ "Whitney Museum of American Art: Njideka Akunyili Crosby: Portals". collection.whitney.org. Retrieved 2018-02-24.
  36. ^ "Pérez Art Museum Miami Exhibition Schedule 2017–2018". pamm.org. Retrieved 2018-02-25.
  37. ^ "I Always Face You, Even When it Seems Otherwise | PAFA - Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts". www.pafa.org. Retrieved 2018-02-25.
  38. ^ "Here in Harlem". Studio Museum in Harlem.
  39. ^ "The New Church Museum". thenewchurch.co. Retrieved 2018-02-25.
  40. ^ Akunyili Crosby, Njideka. "Art". ZEITZ Museum of Contemporary Art Africa.
  41. ^ "Bush Girl, I Still Face You, I See You In My Eyes | LACMA Collections". collections.lacma.org. Retrieved 2018-02-25.
  42. ^ ""The Beautyful Ones" Series #5 | Albright-Knox". www.albrightknox.org. Retrieved 2018-02-25.
  43. ^ "MOCA Mural: Njideka Akunyili Crosby". The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Retrieved 2018-02-25.
  44. ^ "Give and Take: Highlighting Recent Acquisitions". The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Retrieved 2018-02-25.
  45. ^ Akunyili Crosby, Njideka. "Collection". Smithsonian National Museum of African Art.
  46. ^ a b c Heawood, Sophie. "The Nigerian artist who is exploding the myth of the authentic African experience". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 February 2018.
  47. ^ "Njideka Akunyili Crosby". Foreign Policy.com. Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  48. ^ "Who are the FT's Women of 2016?". Financial Times. Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  49. ^ "Alumni Awards". Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

External links[edit]