Amy Sherald Wins 2017 Driskell Prize for African-American Art from the High Museum

Amy Sherald
Amy Sherald
Driskell Prize winner Amy Sherald. Photo: Justin T. Gellerson for the New York Times.

The High Museum of Art has announced Georgia native Amy Sherald as the 2018 recipient of the $25,000 David C. Driskell Prize, alternately given to artists and scholars for contributions to the field of African-American art or art history. Based in Baltimore, Sherald is the artist who was commissioned to paint former first lady Michelle Obama’s official portrait for the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, which will be unveiled on Feb. 12. 

Sherald will be honored at the 14th annual Driskell Prize Dinner at the High on Friday, April 27. Proceeds from the black-tie dinner support the museum’s acquisition fund for African-American art.

AMy Sherald, A clear unspoken granted magic
Amy Sherald, A clear unspoken granted magic, 2017, oil on canvas. Collection of Denise & Gary Gardner, Chicago. Courtesy of the artist and Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago.

Called one of “19 Artists to Watch” in 2017 by the New York Times, Sherald was selected as the Driskell Prize winner by a review committee comprising Andrea Barnwell Brownlee, director of the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art and the 2013 Driskell Prize recipient; Valerie Cassel Oliver, curator of modern and contemporary art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and the 2011 Driskell Prize recipient; and Michael Rooks, the High’s curator of modern and contemporary art.

Born in Columbus, Ga., in 1973, Sherald received her BA from Clark Atlanta University and her MFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art. She was a Spelman College International Artist-in-Residence in Portobelo, Panama, in 1997. After graduating in 2004, she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, and eventually moved back to Georgia. She returned to Baltimore in 2008 and the National Museum of Women in the Arts acquired one of her paintings in 2011. Sherald received a heart transplant in December 2012. In 2016, she was the first woman to win the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery’s Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition for her 2014 painting Miss Everything (Unsuppressed Deliverance). The accompanying exhibition has been traveling since 2016 and opens at the Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina, in June.

In May 2018, Sherald will have a solo show at the Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis. She also has had solo shows at Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago, the Reginald F. Lewis Museum, Baltimore, and the Sonja Haynes Stone Center, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.  She was included in the exhibition “Southern Accent,” co-organized by the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham and the Speed Art Museum in Louisville.

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