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Sam Gilliam Award

In 2023, Dia established the Sam Gilliam Award, which will be given annually to a selected artist, working in any medium and residing anywhere in the world, who has made a significant contribution to art and for whom receiving the award would be transformative. Each year, the prizewinner will be rewarded $75,000 and receive the opportunity to present a public program at Dia. The first recipient of the award, Ibrahim Mahama, was announced in March 2024.

The long-list for the award will be compiled by a group of invited international nominators; there are no applications. A panel of five jurors will then determine the winning artist.

The award was made possible by a generous gift from the Sam Gilliam Foundation and Annie Gawlak, president of the foundation and Gilliam’s widow. In 2021, Dia made a historic acquisition of Double Merge (1968), an important room-size, suspended-canvas work by Gilliam, that the artist rearranged in response to the industrial-scale architecture of Dia Beacon in 2019. The establishment of this award continues Dia’s ongoing commitment to the artist’s legacy and the institution’s relationship with his estate.

The Sam Gilliam Award is made possible by Annie Gawlak and the Sam Gilliam Foundation.

Award recipients

Ibrahim Mahama, 2022. Photo © Carlos Idun-Tawiah

Ibrahim Mahama has been selected to receive the inaugural Sam Gilliam Award, which includes a $75,000 gift and the presentation of a public program at a Dia location in fall 2024. 

Selected as the inaugural Sam Gilliam Award recipient by a panel of five jurors comprising Jordan Carter, curator and co–department head, Dia Art Foundation, New York; Annie Gawlak, president, Sam Gilliam Foundation, Washington, D.C.; Courtney J. Martin, director, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven; Emiliano Valdés, chief curator, Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellín, Colombia; and Zoé Whitley, director, Chisenhale Gallery, London, Ibrahim Mahama was chosen from a long list of artists nominated by a group of international curators and museum directors. Mahama was selected in response to his continuous growth as an artist, in terms of the complexity, scale, and responsiveness to site in his multifaceted material practice, as well the meaningful impact of his ambitious work as a community-oriented practitioner.

Deploying patchworks of reused materials in large-scale textile and found-object installations, Mahama transforms built environments and gallery interiors into spaces for critical reflection on the social lives of objects. Collaboration is key to his practice, as materials are collectively gathered, remade, and installed. Furthering a communal approach beyond his installations, Mahama channels proceeds from his work into establishing interdisciplinary institutions in Tamale, Ghana, utilizing a circular economy to drive cultural regeneration and social transformation.

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