Ibrahim Mahama Has Been Honoured As The First Recipient Of The Sam Gilliam Award

Ghanaian artist,Ibrahim Mahama has been honoured as the first recipient of the Sam Gilliam Award, a recognition established by the Dia Art Foundation and the Sam Gilliam Foundation to commemorate the legacy of the late artist. Mahama is set to receive a $75,000 award and will participate in a public event hosted by Dia in the upcoming fall season. This annual award, running through 2033, aims to acknowledge artists from around the globe who have significantly contributed to any art medium and for whom the award would mark a pivotal moment in their career.

Sam Gilliam, celebrated for his innovative approach of freeing canvas from traditional frames to explore its form in various arrangements, passed away at 88 in 2022. Mahama, reflecting on his connection to Gilliam’s work, credited his mentor Kąrî’kạchä Seid’ou for introducing him to Gilliam’s pioneering contributions, which have deeply influenced his own artistic journey. Mahama emphasized the importance of community in sharing and nurturing talents as a means of enhancing freedom and creativity.

Mahama’s artistry spans installations, sculptures, and textiles, where he is particularly known for his creative use of jute sacks. By stitching these sacks together, he transforms architectural spaces, exploring themes of migration, postcolonialism, and globalization through a collaborative process. His selection for the Gilliam Award was determined by a distinguished jury that includes Annie Gawlak, Gilliam’s widow and head of his foundation; Courtney J. Martin, soon-to-be executive director of the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation; Emiliano Valdés, chief curator at the Medellín Museum of Modern Art; Zoé Whitley, director of the Chisenhale Gallery in London; and Jordan Carter, a curator at Dia. The jury commended Mahama for his evolving artistic complexity, the ambitious scale of his works, and their significant communal impact.

Jessica Morgan, director of Dia, lauded Mahama’s practice for its emphasis on collaboration and the transformative effect his work has on communities. By repurposing and recycling materials into meaningful art, Mahama not only reinvigorates physical spaces but also fosters communal engagement, learning, and creativity. The award celebrates the dual aspects of Mahama’s impactful and community-oriented art practice.