Museum highlighting African American cinema brings home the 2018 Sotheby’s Prize

Museum highlighting African American cinema brings home the 2018 Sotheby’s Prize
2018's Sotheby's Prize winner Academy Museum of Motion Pictures' building in Los Angeles. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
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The 2018 Sotheby’s Prize of $250,000 was recently awarded to the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures (AMMP), which will open in Los Angeles in late 2019. In its second year, the Sotheby’s Prize seeks to recognize innovative institutions and extraordinary curators who ‘strive to break new ground and challenge our understanding of art today.’ Moreover, it aims to honour institutions alongside lesser-known and underrepresented artists that explore issues and topics often overlooked in traditional art history lessons. This year, 93 institutions hailing from 19 countries were considered for the prize.

The prize money will specifically support the AMMP’s exhibition, ‘Regeneration: Black Cinema 1900-1970’, due to open in the fall of 2020. ‘Regeneration’ will highlight the history of African American filmmaking, a largely underrepresented area, and its impact on the American film industry’s development. The first of its kind, ‘Regeneration’ will examine the evolution of African American representation during 20th century cinema, while also create a dialogue between African American filmmakers and visual artists. Doris Berger and Rhea Combs will co-curate the exhibition with the hopes that it redefines American film history.

The Sotheby’s Prize winner is chosen by a panel jury, which, this year, included Hammer Museum chief curator Connie Butler; Whitney Museum chief curator and deputy director Donna De Salvo; former director of Munich’s Haus der Kunst Okwui Enwezor; Mauritshuis director Emilie Gordenker; Sotheby’s chairman Allan Schwartzman; and former Tate London director Nicholas Serota.

‘In the US over the last few years there has been an overdue re-examination of artists of African descent, but no museum has really looked closely at this in the realms of popular culture. This exhibition looks at the popular culture of cinema through the eyes of the filmmakers and artists who grew up in that culture,’ said Schwartzman of the Sotheby’s Prize winner. He continued, ‘This will be a landmark exhibition that will rewrite our understanding of the history of film and of its impact on popular and high culture. This is an exhibition that can truly change a national and international discussion on race, art, society, and the history of the Twentieth Century.’

In addition to the main prize, the Sotheby’s Prize awarded $10,000 prizes to five other institutions whose proposals were considered exceptional and transformative, as well. This year, commendation prizes went to the ZUMU in Hura, Israel for ‘Tradition & Modernization’; the Wallace Collection, London for ‘Henry Moore: The Helmet Head Series’; Des Moines Art Center, Iowa for ‘Contemporary Queer Abstraction’; Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, Ohio for ‘The Career of Robert Colescott’; and the Norval Foundation, Cape Town, South Africa ‘Jackson Hlungwani: Alt and Omega’.