Art & Culture

Nasher Sculpture Center Announced Artist Otobong Nkanga is Next Recipient of $100,000 Nasher Prize



Otobong Nkanga. | Photo by Wim van Dongen

 

EACH YEAR SINCE 2016, the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, Texas, has presented an international award to a living artist whose practice “elevates the understanding of sculpture and its possibilities.” The recipient of the 2025 Nasher Prize for sculpture is Otobong Nkanga. The Nigerian Belgian artist is the first African-born recipient of the prize. The honor includes a $100,000, along with an exhibition and a new publication.

Over the past 20 years, Nkanga has developed a research-based, conceptual practice that spans mediums, from sculpture, drawing and writing to powerful and poetic installations and performances, for which she is best known. Her work explores the complex relationships between humans, the land, and its natural resources and how their connections channel identity, memory, and history.

“Otobong Nkanga maps urgent global problems but does so in subtle, enigmatic, and probing ways,” Briony Fer, Nasher Prize juror and professor at University College London, said in a statement. “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.”

“Otobong Nkanga maps urgent global problems but does so in subtle, enigmatic, and probing ways. … The intense and productive way in which she presents formal and material questions is what marks out her huge contribution to sculpture right now.” — Nasher Prize Juror Briony Fer

 


Nasher Prize Jurors announce Otobong Nkanga is the 2025 Nasher Prize recipient, explain her highly considered work, and the many reasons it won them over. | Video by Nasher Sculpture Center

 

BORN IN KANO, NIGERIA, Nkanga lives and works in Antwerp, Belgium, and brings a global, interdisciplinary perspective to her work. She studied at Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife, Nigeria, and École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, France; earned a master’s degree in performing arts at DasArts, Advanced Research in Theatre and Dance studies in Amsterdam; and participated in artist-in-residence programs in Amsterdam and Berlin. Her work has been exhibited around the world and featured in multiple international biennials.

Earlier this year, “Otobong Nkanga: Gently Basking in Debris” was featured at the Frist Art Museum in Nashville. The tightly curated selection of works was part of the Tennessee Triennial. “Otobong Nkanga: Craving for Southern Light,” The artist’s first solo exhibition in Spain, is currently on view at the Institut Valencià d’Art Modern through Jan. 7, 2024. In 2019, Nkanga received Norway’s Lise Wilhelmsen Art Award, another $100,000 prize. She also won the 2017 Belgium Art Prize.

Since its inception, the Nasher Prize has been an annual award. Previous Nasher Prize recipients include Dori Salcedo, the inaugural winner in 2016; Theaster Gates (2018); and Senga Nengudi (2023).

Beginning this year, Nasher announced, the award will be given biennially. Nkanga is the first Nasher Prize Laureate recognized under the new two-year cycle, which was adopted to give provide more lead time for the artist to mount a more substantial exhibition, produce a publication, and thoughtfully consider how they wish to approach the projects. Nkanga will receive the prize, which was designed by Renzo Piano, at the Nasher Sculpture Center on April 25, 2025. The occasion will coincide with the artist’s exhibition and monograph. CT

 

FIND MORE about Otobong Nkanga on her website and Instagram

 


OTOBONG NKANGA (Nigerian/Belgian, b. 1974), “Loaded tears turned to rock,” 2023 (hand-tufted carpet, Murano glass, wood, ceramic, clay, handmade rope, metal connectors). | Installation view of “Craving for Southern Light,” IVAM Centre Julio González, Valencia, Spain, 2023. Photo Courtesy IVAM Centre Julio González

 


OTOBONG NKANGA (Nigerian/Belgian, b. 1974), Detail of “Carved to Flow: Germination,” 2017. | Installation view of “Craving for Southern Light,” IVAM Centre Julio González, Valencia, Spain, 2023. Photo courtesy IVAM Centre Julio González

 


OTOBONG NKANGA (Nigerian/Belgian, b. 1974), “Double Plot,” 2018 (woven textile (yarns – viscose, polyester, organic cotton, cashwool, acryl), inkjet prints on 5 laser-cut forex plates, 104 1/5 x 303 1/5 inches / 265 x 770 cm); “Alignment,” 2022 (handmade ropes, 3 Murano glass spheres, tree trunk, metal connectors, clay granules, lava stones, activated carbon, soil, plants). | Installation view of “Botanischer Wahnsinn (Botanical Madness),” Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, Netherlands, 2022. Photo by Marjon Gemmeke

 


OTOBONG NKANGA (Nigerian/Belgian, b. 1974), “Unearthed–Sunlight,” 2021 (woven textile (yarns: trevira, sidero, polyester, multifilament, merino wool, superwash, linnen,mohair, econyl, fulgaren, elirex, viscose), remembrance plants, 137 4/5 x 236 1/5 inches / 350 x 600 cm), Unearthed installation on 4 floors, 2021; 3rd floor: scorched tree-trunk, landscape of rammed earth with pools. | Installation view of Otobong Nkanga at the Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria, 2021. Photo by Markus Tretter

 


OTOBONG NKANGA (Nigerian/Belgian, b. 1974), “Veins Aligned,” 2018 (Murano glass, paint, blast furnace fusion, wet sandblasted Lasa Marble Venato Fior di Melo®, wooden plinth, 1023 3/5 inches / 2600 cm; various widths, about 19 3/5 x 27 1/2 inches / 50–70 cm). | Installation view of “May You Live In Interesting Times,” The Arsenale, Venice Biennale, 2019. Photo by Andrea Avezzù

 


OTOBONG NKANGA Otobong Nkanga (Nigerian/Belgian, b. 1974), “In Pursuit of Bling,” 2014 (metal modulated structure of 30 elements; 9 photographic prints on Galala limestone slabs, 6 slabs with minerals in layered concrete, 4 levitation modules with minerals (various mica), 3 texts printed on Galala limestone slabs, 2 woven textile pieces (In Pursuit of Bling–The Discovery; In Pursuit of Bling–The Transformation), 2 single-channel HD videos with sound, occasionally on headphones (In Pursuit of Bling, 11:59 min; Reflections of the Raw Green Crown, 2:52 min), 1 micanite sheet, 1 lightbox with 30 inkjet-printed archival images on plexiglass, 1 copper sheet with malachite head piece, 1 compressed makeup powder tray). | Installation view of “Otobong Nkanga: To Dig a Hole That Collapses Again,” Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 2018

 


Otobong Nkanga talks about her work while installing “Otobong Nkanga: To Dig a Hole That Collapses Again” at MCA Chicago, her first solo show in a U.S. museum. | Video by MCA Chicago

 


OTOBONG NKANGA (Nigerian/Belgian, b. 1974), “Wetin You Go Do?,” 2015 (concrete, dye, rope, speakers, sound, 10 minutes – loop). | Installation view of “La vie modern,” Musée d’artcontemporain, Montréal, Québec, 2015. Photo by Blaise Adilon

 


OTOBONG NKANGA (Nigerian/Belgian, b. 1974), “Anamnesis,” 2015 (plywood, gauze, coffee, tea, spices, cacao, raw tobacco, peat, 204 3/5 x 451 1/5 inches / 520 x 1146 cm). | Installation view of “Streamline., Ozeane, Welthandel and Migration. Oceans, Global Trade and Migration,” Deichtorhallen, Hamburg, Germany, 2015

 


OTOBONG NKANGA (Nigerian/Belgian, b. 1974), “Taste of a Stone,” 2010/20 (marble pebbles, Hedera Helix, Sempervivum arachnoideum, Sedum acre, Sedum rupestre, Linaria alpina, Tillandsia multiflora, Tillandsia straminea, Tillandsia aeranthos clump, reindeer moss, boulders, gneiss, granite, Iceland lichen, inkjet prints on Galala limestone slabs, Kolanut Tales–Dismembered, 2016, woven textile: yarns – polyester, organic cotton, linen, acryl, 82 4/5 x 68 4/5 inches / 210 x 175 cm). | Installation view of “Otobong Nkanga: There’s No Such Thing as Solid Ground,” Gropius Bau, Berlin, Germany, 2020. Photo by Luca Girardini

 


OTOBONG NKANGA (Nigerian/Belgian, b. 1974), “Taste of a Stone,” 2010/19 (Namib Red pebbles, Echeveria Lehani, Crassula muscosa, Plectranthus variegated, Gasteria Barberton,Plectranthus Strigosus Blue, reindeer moss, various rocks from Cape Town area, inkjet prints on Galala limestone slabs, Kolanut Tales–Dismembered, 2016, woven textile: yarns – polyester, organic cotton, linen, acryl, 82 4/5 x 68 4/5 inches / 210 x 175 cm). | Installation view of Acts at the Crossroads at MOCAA–Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art, Cape Town, South Africa, 2019. Photo by Dillon Marsh

 


Otobong Nkanga talks about the importance of motivation and how curiosity drives her and is central to her practice: “I think that everybody has, I hope, or tries to in this lifetime, tries to have a passion of something that you wake up in the morning and and you feel motivated by. You feel that it’s necessary for it to be in this world and when we don’t find that quest, and when we do not know, it leads to many Questions of existence.” | Video by The Louisiana Channel

 

BOOKSHELF
The catalog, “Otobong Nkanga: To Dig a Hole that Collapses Again” accompanied the artist’s first-ever U.S. survey exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. “Otobong Nkanga: Luster and Lucre” is the artist’s first monograph. Also consider, “Otobong Nkanga: Underneath the Shade We Lay Grounded,” which documents a recent show at the Sint-Janshospitaal in Bruges, Belgium.

 

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