Adrienne C. Childs, an art historian who serves as the adjunct curator of the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., is the winner of this year’s David C. Driskell Prize, an annual award for individuals in the art world who push African American art and art history in new directions that comes with a $50,000 purse.
Childs has been celebrated for her work on Black artists of the 20th and 21st centuries, including the acclaimed 2020 exhibition “Riffs and Relations: African American Artists and the European Modernist Tradition” at the Phillips Collection. She has also written scholarship about European decorative arts, often with regard to Blackness and representations of it. In addition to her position at the Phillips Collection, she is currently an associate of the W. E. B. Du Bois Research Institute at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University.
Among her forthcoming projects is “The Colour of Anxiety: Race, Sex and the Uncanny in Victorian Sculpture,” an exhibition due to open in November at the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds, England, and the book Ornamental Blackness: The Black Figure in European Decorative Arts, which will be published by Yale University Press.
Childs also has a personal connection to the prize’s namesake, David C. Driskell, an artist, educator, curator, and art historian who staked a claim for Black artists as having made a significant contribution to the progression of American art during the 19th and 20th centuries. He established the David C. Driskell Center for the Study of the Visual Arts and Culture of African Americans and the African Diaspora at the University of Maryland, College Park, where Childs was once a pre-doctoral fellow and where she has curated several exhibitions.
In a statement, Rand Suffolk, director of the High Museum, said, “As an art historian and curator, Dr. Childs consistently celebrates and amplifies the work of African American artists and produces thought-provoking scholarship examining Black representation throughout artistic traditions.”