By Maria Saporta
The High Museum of Art has selected Georgia native Amy Sherald as the 2018 recipient of the prestigious David C. Driskell Prize in recognition of her contributions to the field of African-American art, the museum announced on Thursday.
Among her notable achievements, Sherald received the commission to paint former first lady Michelle Obama’s official portrait for the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, which will be unveiled on Feb. 12.
The Driskell Prize, founded in 2005, was named in honor of renowned African-American artist and art scholar David C. Driskell to recognize artists and scholars early or in the middle of their careers.
Sherald will be honored as the 14th Driskell Prize recipient at the High’s Driskell Prize Dinner on April 27. The Prize includes a $25,000 cash award for the artist. Proceeds from the dinner will support the David C. Driskell African American Art Acquisition Funds
Since the inception of those funds, the High has been able to acquire 48 works by African-American artists for its collection.
Sherald was born in Columbus, Ga. in 1973, and she trained as a painter in Atlanta – earning a Bachelor of Arts degree from Clark Atlanta University. She then was a Spelman College International Artist-in-Residence in Portobelo, Panama (1997).
Sherald went on to receive her master’s degree in painting from the Maryland Institute College of Art. Upon graduating in 2004, she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, and after completing a residency in Norway, Sherald moved home to Georgia to care for her family.
She returned to Baltimore in 2008 to refocus on her practice, and her work began to gain national attention in 2011 when the National Museum of Women in the Arts acquired one of her paintings.
Sherald received a life-saving heart transplant in December 2012 and, after her recuperation, resumed working in her studio in Baltimore. In 2016, Sherald was the first woman to win the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery’s Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition for her 2014 painting “Miss Everything (Unsuppressed Deliverance).
An accompanying exhibition, “The Outwin 2016,” has been on tour since 2016 and opens at the Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina, in June 2018. The New York Times selected Sherald among “19 Artists to Watch” in 2017.
“Sherald is a remarkable talent who in recent years has gained the recognition she so thoroughly deserves as a unique force in contemporary art,” said Rand Suffolk, the Nancy and Holcombe T. Green, Jr., director of the High. “We are honored to select her as this year’s recipient and to support her incredible work, which celebrates America’s diversity and rich cultural heritage.
The selection process for the 2018 recipient of the Driskell Prize began with a call for nominations from a national pool of artists, curators, teachers, collectors and art historians. Sherald was chosen from among these nominations by review committee members assembled by the High.
The committee included Andrea Barnwell Brownlee, the 2013 Driskell Prize recipient and director of the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art; Valerie Cassel Oliver, the 2011 Driskell Prize recipient and curator of modern and contemporary art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; and Michael Rooks , the High’s Wieland Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art.
The 2018 Driskell Prize Dinner is co-chaired by Helen Smith Price, Jane Jackson and Matthew T. Echols with Honorary Chair Ambassador Andrew Young.