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AFTER CAUSING A STIR when she announced the lengthy, provocative title of her latest exhibition at Sikkema Jenkins, Kara Walker is being honored with a W.E.B. Du Bois Medal from Harvard University’s Hutchins Center for African & African American Research. Walker is among eight recipients of the 2017 award, including filmmaker Ava DuVernay, Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, and Ford Foundation President Darren Walker, who worked with Agnes Gund to establish an Art for Justice Fund that supports criminal justice reforms aimed at reducing mass incarceration.

Established in 2013, the medal is awarded annually “to those who have made significant contributions to African and African American history and culture, and more broadly individuals who advocate for intercultural understanding and human rights in an increasingly global and interconnected world.”

New York-based Walker works in a variety of mediums exploring the vestiges of slavery and the antebellum South, and the attendant issues of race, gender, sexuality, power and violence.

Earlier this month, her show of paintings and drawings opened at Sikkema Jenkins Gallery in New York. The exhibition is titled in part: “Sikkema Jenkins and Co. is Compelled to present the most Astounding and Important Painting show of the fall Art Show viewing season! Collectors of Fine Art will Flock to see the latest Kara Walker offerings, and what is she offering but the Finest Selection of artworks by an African-American Living Woman Artist this side of the Mississippi.” It goes on for 11 more sentences.

Previously, three other artists/designers have been recognized with Du Bois medals: architect David Adjaye (2014), Steve McQueen (2014), and Carrie Mae Weems (2015).

The Hutchins Center Honors W.E.B. Du Bois Medal Ceremony is Oct. 4

2017 Medalists:

Donna Brazile | Democratic Political Strategist
Ava DuVernay | Filmmaker
Carla Hayden | Librarian of Congress
LL COOL J | Actor/Recording Artist
John W. Thompson | Chairman of the Board, Microsoft
Darren Walker | President, Ford Foundation
Kara Walker | Visual Artist
Jennifer Ward Oppenheimer (AB ’89, JD ’93) | Philanthropist (Posthumous)


Documenting Kara Walker’s two-decade career, several volumes have been published on the occasion of her exhibitions. Recently, “Kara Walker: Go to Hell or Atlanta, Whichever Comes First” was published to coincide with her fall 2015 show at Victoria Miro Gallery in London. “Kara Walker: Norma” documents a unique project Walker undertook during the 2015 Venice Biennale, the direction and art direction of Vincenzo Bellini’s two-act opera.


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