Writer, curator, and art historian Alayo Akinkugbe is one of the guest judges for Jackson’s Art Prize 2024. In this interview she introduces herself and her work, and tells us about her exhibition highlights from the past year.
Interview with Alayo Akinkugbe
Josephine: Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
Alayo: My name is Alayo Akinkugbe and I am a writer and a curator. I’m the founder of the Instagram platform A Black History of Art, on which I highlight overlooked Black artists, sitters, and curators from art history and the present day.
Josephine: What have been your proudest achievements in your career?
Alayo: I think my proudest achievements in my career have been starting the podcast [A Shared Gaze], which was difficult to begin alongside university, but which I finally started once I finished my Masters. It’s always been important for me to centre the voice of artists and the podcast is about the lives and the practices of Black artists from around the globe. I think it’s also really important to be able to have this discussion not just in a UK context, and the podcast format allows me to do that. Aside from the podcast, I think my other proudest achievement is having my column Black Gazes in AnOther magazine, which does a very similar thing, but is a bit more focused on exhibitions in London.
Josephine: Who are the artists or artworks, and exhibitions you’ve been most inspired by this past year?
Alayo: I think for me, my biggest exhibition highlights this year have been El Anatsui’s Hyundai commission in the Tate Turbine Hall, which is made up of three parts and it’s very awe inspiring. You look up and you don’t expect this huge sculptural form to be hanging above you. It’s all made from recycled materials and it’s a really, really beautiful installation. And the other exhibition highlight for me I think was Carrie Mae Weems at the Barbican. It was, I think, her largest UK solo institutional exhibition to date, and it was extremely inspiring because I’ve never seen so much of her work concentrated in one place, and it was really great to see her shown as more than just a photographer, but also a moving image maker.
Josephine: How important do you think awards and competitions are for artists today?
Alayo: Awards and competitions are, I think, very important for artists today because they basically give artists more of an opportunity to expand their practice. I think that, especially now in the cost of living crisis, monetary awards are really important for artists because they allow them or perhaps provide a bit of relief and give them more space to focus on their practice.
Josephine: What will you be looking for in the entries?
Alayo: I think for my selection what I will be looking out for is work that particularly moves me or challenges me. Those are the sorts of works and practices that really stand out to me.
Josephine: Do you have any advice for artists out there thinking about entering Jackson’s Art Prize this year?
Alayo: My advice to artists would be to submit work that really reflects your own practice and that you feel reflects who you are as an artist.