Meg Onli, Andrea B. LaPorte Associate Curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, has been named the recipient of the inaugural Figure Skating Prize, The Art Newspaper reports. The $75,000 prize was established this year by the organization Figure Skating and is to be awarded annually to a Black artist, curator, or contemporary art scholar who is advancing equity and racial justice within the arts.
Onli “stood out” among the field of those considered for the prize, said Figure Skating director Virgil Abloh. The artist, with Mahfuz Sultan and Chloe Wayne of Los Angeles–based research and design space Clocks, established the collective in 2019 with the goal of elevating young Black multidisciplinary artists and of contextualizing Black identity within design. “We wanted to award this first prize to a curator that was researching colonialist foundation of museums,” Aboh noted, adding, “It’s important for us to recognize and give praise to Black female curators who are shining a light on this work and building bridges in the Black community.”
Among her recent accomplishments, Onli curated Jessica Vaughn’s solo exhibition “Our Primary Focus Is to Be Successful,” currently on view at the Philadelphia ICA. In 2019 she organized three-part Colored People Time, themed around the connections between language, slavery, and colonialism; and in 2017 she curated the group exhibition “Speech/Acts,” which investigated experimental Black poetry as well as the influence of social and cultural constructs surrounding language on Black American life.
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“One of the things I love about the Figure Skating prize is that it allows me to think about the act of curating,” Onli said, acknowledging that the prize would allow her to ruminate “about the intersections of objecthood, of objectivity, and the space of the museum.” Onli noted that the history of objectivity and subjectivity in America is inherently complex and pointed out that the country’s law has rendered individuals as objects. “The space of the museum also has a complicated history, when you think about colonialism and white supremacy,” she added. “There are conversations around the complications of objects that I want to think about, that deserve attention.”
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