Emmanuel Iduma Named Recipient of Inaugural Irving Sandler Award
Emmanuel Iduma. Photograph by Josh Begley.
Emmanuel Iduma. Photograph by Josh Begley.

AICA-USA announces a new award: the AICA-USA Irving Sandler Award for New Voices in Art Criticism. The first recipient is art critic and novelist Emmanuel Iduma. Iduma was selected following a rigorous review of the most important American art writers working today in the first decade of their careers. AICA-USA jurors praised the uniqueness of his critical voice and the consistency and quality of his work.

Initially, Iduma was to be honored in an award ceremony at the Whitney Museum of American Art in May of 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a cancellation of this event. The award ceremony will be rescheduled to take place in the fall of 2020 and will include a special address by Iduma.

Nine members of AICA-USA's board of directors participated in the nomination and selection process: Judith Stein, Norman L. Kleeblatt, Amei Wallach, Susan Harris, Phong Bui, Noah Dillon, William Fenstermaker, Lee Ann Norman and Lilly Wei.

Judith Stein, AICA-USA co-president, says of Iduma’s work, “Emmanuel Iduma writes about art, he confides, ‘to come to terms with history.’ With a focus on the diasporic condition, Iduma unpacks Africa’s past for us, contextualizing it with elegance and insight.”

According to Stein’s fellow co-president Norman L. Kleeblatt, “On many levels it’s a difficult time for art critics. Despite the newer opportunities offered in electronic media, there are fewer venues for full time positions, lower compensation, as well as general lack of security. It’s therefore all the more urgent to recognize that there are important voices to be heard and elevated.”

AICA-USA board member Amei Wallach adds: “This is an award that links Sandler and his on-the-ground observations of successive decades of charged moments in a newly assertive American art with Iduma’s contemporary eye for the disjunctive poetry of disparate times. It acknowledges a new generation of art critics and critical concerns.”

AICA-USA created the award in honor of the late Irving Sandler, esteemed art critic and valued board member and friend, who tirelessly illuminated the role of art, artists and art criticism in the 20th and 21st centuries. The award includes a gift of $2,500.

Emmanuel Iduma
has written art criticism that has been published widely, including in The Millions, LitHub, Aperture, British Journal of Photography, Art in America, ArtNEWS, Catapult, Guernica, and The New York Review of Books, as well as in a range of artist books and exhibition catalogues. For the Carnegie International 2018, he was invited to contribute a travelogue essay to the catalogue, and later served on the jury to award its Fine Art Prizes. He was awarded an arts writing grant from the Creative Capital/Andy Warhol Foundation for essays on Nigerian artists. He is the author of The Sound of Things to Come (The Mantle, 2016), a novel published in Nigeria as Farad (Parresia, 2012) and A Stranger’s Pose (Cassava Republic Press, 2018). He teaches at the School of Visual Arts, New York, where he received an MFA in Art Criticism and Writing, and divides his time between Lagos and New York.

AICA supports art writers around the world through public programs and membership that includes free access to museums across the globe. Since its formation in 1950, AICA has been committed to elevating the values of art criticism as a discipline, and acting on behalf of the physical and moral defense of works of art.
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AICA supports arts writers around the world through public programs and membership that offers free access to museums across the globe. AICA-USA represents the largest national section of AICA International with over 450 distinguished critics, curators, scholars, and art historians working throughout the United States. As part of the international organization, we benefit from a global reach in presence. AICA-USA is intent on international communication, elevating the values of art criticism as a discipline, and acting on behalf of the physical and moral defense of works of art.

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