The Hilton Als Series: Njideka Akunyili Crosby

Five works by Nigerian-born, Los Angeles–based artist Njideka Akunyili are spotlighted in the third and final exhibition in a series curated by the Pulitzer Prize–winning author and New Yorker magazine critic Hilton Als, in collaboration with the Yale Center for British Art (YCBA) and each artist.

Feb. 15–June 12, 2023
Huntington Art Gallery

Previous exhibitions in the series featured works by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye (2020) and Celia Paul (2019).

For this exhibition, Als and Akunyili Crosby selected collage-based paintings from “The Beautyful Ones”, the artist’s ongoing series of intimate portraits of Nigerian children, including members of her own family. The title references a classic 1968 novel, The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born, by Ghanaian author Ayi Kwei Armah. Published in a year of worldwide social unrest, Armah’s book comments on the challenges of revolution, addresses the unfulfilled political promises of the postcolonial African nation-state, and looks ahead from a place of lost hope.

Akunyili Crosby creates unique settings for her subjects, where history, philosophy, and fantasy permeate the walls of quiet living spaces. Furnished with vintage decor and analog electronics, the interiors evoke her own 1980s-era youth.

Akunyili Crosby (b. 1983) is a leading contemporary artist whose work offers critical perspectives on postcolonial history and experience as well as transnational identities. Born and raised in Nigeria, she came to the United States in 1999 to attend the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and Swarthmore College, before obtaining a master’s in fine arts from Yale University. Akunyili Crosby’s work has been the subject of acclaimed solo exhibitions in both the United States and the United Kingdom, notably at the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, and the National Portrait Gallery, London. In 2017, she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship “genius grant.”

This exhibition’s presentation at The Huntington is made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support is provided by the Philip and Muriel Berman Foundation and an anonymous foundation.

National Endowment for the Arts

Njideka Akunyili Crosby, “The Beautyful Ones” Series #4, 2015.

Njideka Akunyili Crosby, “The Beautyful Ones” Series #4, 2015. Acrylic, photographic transfers, and colored pencil on paper. 61 × 42 in. (154.9 × 106.7 cm). © Njideka Akunyili Crosby. Courtesy of the artist, Victoria Miro, and David Zwirner.

young Black girl in a dress wearing glasses

Njideka Akunyili Crosby, “The Beautyful Ones” Series #1c, 2014. Acrylic, transfers, and colored pencil on paper. 60 × 42 in. (152.4 × 106.7 cm).

| © Njideka Akunyili Crosby. Courtesy of the artist, Victoria Miro, and David Zwirner.

Njideka Akunyili Crosby, "The Beautyful Ones" Series #8.

Njideka Akunyili Crosby, "The Beautyful Ones" Series #8, 2018. Acrylic, colored pencil, and transfers on paper. 59 7/8 × 42 1/2 in. (152.1 × 108 cm.).

| © Njideka Akunyili Crosby. Courtesy of the artist, Victoria Miro, and David Zwirner.

Njideka Akunyili Crosby, “The Beautyful Ones" Series #6.

Njideka Akunyili Crosby, “The Beautyful Ones" Series #6, 2018. Acrylic, photographic transfers, and colored pencil on paper. 59 3/4 × 42 1/2 in. (151.8 × 108 cm.).

| © Njideka Akunyili Crosby. Courtesy of the artist, Victoria Miro, and David Zwirner.

Njideka Akunyili Crosby ,“The Beautyful Ones" Series #9.

Njideka Akunyili Crosby ,“The Beautyful Ones" Series #9, 2018. Acrylic, colored pencil, charcoal, transfers, and collage on paper. 75 × 75 1/2 in. (190.5 × 191.8 cm.).

| © Njideka Akunyili Crosby. Courtesy of the artist, Victoria Miro, and David Zwirner.