The Hilton Als Series: Njideka Akunyili Crosby

This focused exhibition of works by Njideka Akunyili Crosby (b. 1983), Yale MFA 2011, is the third and final show in a series curated by the Pulitzer Prize–winning author Hilton Als in collaboration with the YCBA and each artist. Previous exhibitions featured works by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye (2019) and Celia Paul (2018).

Als and Akunyili Crosby selected works from The Beautyful Ones, the artist’s ongoing series of intimate portraits of Nigerian children, including members of her own family. The title references a classic 1968 novel, The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born, by Ghanaian author Ayi Kwei Armah. Published in a year of worldwide civic and social unrest, Armah’s book comments on the challenges of revolution, addresses the unfulfilled political promises of the postcolonial African nation-state, and looks ahead from a place of lost hope.

Akunyili Crosby is a leading contemporary artist whose work offers critical perspectives on postcolonial history and experience as well as transnational identities. Born and raised in Nigeria, she came to the United States in 1999 to attend the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and Swarthmore College, before obtaining  an MFA from Yale University. Now based in Los Angeles, Akunyili Crosby has been the subject of a sequence of high-profile and well-received solo exhibitions in both the United States and the United Kingdom, notably at the Baltimore Museum of Art, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, and the National Portrait Gallery, London. In 2017 she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship “genius grant.”

Related Program

Andrew Carnduff Ritchie Lecture | Hilton Als on Njideka Akunyili Crosby
Tuesday, November 1, 2022, 5:30pm
Hilton Als, associate professor of writing at Columbia University School of the Arts, New York and staff writer for the New Yorker

Watch Now

at home: Artists in Conversation
Njideka Akunyili Crosby talked with Courtney J. Martin, Paul Mellon Director, YCBA, in June 2021. Watch the recording here.


Hilton Als is a staff writer for the New Yorker and Associate Professor of Writing at Columbia University. The exhibition will travel to the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California, where it will be on view February 18 through June 12, 2023.

50 Women at Yale 150

Top image
Njideka Akunyili Crosby, "The Beautyful Ones" Series #1c (detail), 2014, acrylic, colored pencil, and transfers on paper, Collection of the artist, © Njideka Akunyili Crosby, courtesy the artist, Victoria Miro, and David Zwirner

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