2024 Driskell Prize Recipient

Naomi Beckwith

Naomi Beckwith 2023 Ph 13 Large Jpg (1)Naomi Beckwith, deputy director and Jennifer and David Stockman chief curator of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and Museum, is the 2024 recipient of the David C. Driskell Prize in recognition of her contributions to the field of African American art. Awarded annually by the museum since 2005, the $50,000 prize demonstrates the High’s ongoing dedication to furthering artistic innovation and promoting research of African American artists and scholars.

“Beckwith has a long and illustrious track record of championing Black artists and their contributions to the field, so it’s only fitting that we recognize and support her work with the 2024 Driskell Prize,” said Rand Suffolk, director of the High. “We look forward to celebrating her at the year’s gala and to welcoming her into the company of our distinguished prize recipients.”

In her more than 15 years as a curator, Beckwith has organized dozens of acclaimed exhibitions and published landmark scholarship that explores the influence of Black identity and culture on the multidisciplinary practices of global contemporary artists, including Arthur Jafa, Rashid Johnson, Howardena Pindell, Jimmy Robert and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. At the Guggenheim, which she joined in 2021, she oversees the dynamic exhibition program and collections policy for four international museums, with particular responsibility for permanent holdings in Venice and New York as well as collections and exhibitions for Guggenheim Bilbao.

Prior to the Guggenheim, Beckwith held curatorial positions at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, becoming Manilow senior curator in 2018. There she mounted “Howardena Pindell: What Remains to Be Seen” (2018), the artist’s first survey, and developed group and solo shows featuring artists including Leslie Hewitt, Jimmy Robert and Yinka Shonibare CBE RA. She began her curatorial career as the Whitney-Lauder Curatorial Fellow at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia. Her practice matured as associate curator at the Studio Museum in Harlem, where her exhibitions included “Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Any Number of Preoccupations” (2011) and “30 Seconds off an Inch” (2009-10), featuring work by more than 40 artists of color and others inspired by Black culture. Her other projects have included serving on the advisory team to realize “Grief and Grievance: Art and Mourning in America,” an exhibition conceived by the late curator Okwui Enwezor for the New Museum.

She has contributed to numerous catalogue publications and periodicals, including Artforum International, Frieze, The New York Times and W Magazine, and served on the jury of the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015.

Named for the renowned African American artist and art scholar, the Driskell Prize was established by the High in 2005 as the first national award to celebrate a scholar or artist whose work makes an original and significant contribution to the field of African American art or art history. Beckwith will be honored at the 19th annual Driskell Prize Gala at the High on Friday, April 26, at 7 p.m., where her work will be recognized with a $50,000 cash award. Proceeds from the gala support the David C. Driskell African American Art Acquisition Restricted and Endowment funds. Since the prize’s inception, the funds have supported the acquisition of 52 works by African American artists for the High’s collection.

The selection process for the 2024 recipient of the Driskell Prize began with a call for nominations from a national pool of artists, curators, teachers, collectors and art historians. Beckwith was chosen from among these nominations by review committee members assembled by the High: Adrienne L. Childs, senior consulting curator at The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., and 2022 Driskell Prize recipient; Franklin Sirmans, director of the Pérez Art Museum and 2007 Driskell Prize recipient; and two High Museum of Art curators, Kevin W. Tucker (chief curator) and Maria L. Kelly (assistant curator of photography).

“I am equal parts elated and humbled to receive the Driskell Prize,” said Beckwith. “Previous recipients are my mentors, my models and my inspiration, and I am truly honored to be included in this illustrious cohort and contribute to our shared mission of making the most expansive art history imaginable.”

In addition to the Driskell Prize, Beckwith has been a multiple grantee, and is now a trustee, of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and was the 2015 recipient of the New Leadership award from ArtTable. She also serves on the board of the Laundromat Project in New York and the advisory committee of the Museum of Contemporary Art Barcelona. She has previously served on the selection committee for the David C. Driskell Prize. She holds a Master of Arts, with Distinction, from the Courtauld Institute of Art in London and was a Critical Studies Fellow at the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program. She has been a visiting professor at Northwestern University and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Learn more about the David C. Driskell Prize and other previous recipients.