The High Museum of Art, Atlanta, announced Franklin Sirmans, curator of modern and contemporary art at the Menil Collection in Houston, Texas, as the 2007 recipient of the David C. Driskell Prize. Named after the renowned African American artist and art scholar, the Driskell Prize recognizes a scholar or artist in the beginning or middle of his or her career whose work makes an original and important contribution to the field of African American art or art history. Sirmans will be awarded the prize at a ceremony in Atlanta on April 23 and will give a public lecture at the High on July 22 in conjunction with the National Black Arts Festival.
“Franklin Sirmans has emerged over the past few years as a fresh and leading voice in the field of African American art,” said Michael E. Shapiro, the High’s Nancy and Holcombe T. Green, Jr. Director. “His work as a curator, writer, and teacher both in the United States and abroad make him a most deserving recipient of the Driskell Prize.”
Prior to taking his position at the Menil Collection, Franklin Sirmans mounted exhibitions as an independent curator at museums in Europe, Asia and the U.S., including the Bronx Museum of the Arts, Comune di Milano in Italy and the Museum Villa Stuck in Munich. Some of his notable projects include “Basquiat” (Brooklyn Museum; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; 2005); “Make it Now: New Sculpture in New York” (Sculpture Center, 2005); “One Planet Under a Groove: Contemporary Art and Hip Hop” (Bronx Museum of Art; Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, Atlanta; and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; 2001–2003); and “Ralph Bunche: Diplomat for Peace and Justice” (Queens Museum of Art, 2004). He has also been a curatorial advisor at PS 1 since February of 2006, and has organized exhibitions such as “Bearable Lightness” and solo presentations of artists including SunTek Chung, Philip Maysles, Curtis Mitchell and Senam Okudzeto. He has taught art history most recently at both Maryland Institute College of Art and Princeton University.
Franklin Sirmans has edited and contributed to numerous exhibition catalogues, including Transforming the Crown: African, Asian and Caribbean Artists in Britain, Gary Simmons (Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago), Black Belt, Black Romantic (Studio Museum in Harlem), Freestyle and Frequency (Studio Museum in Harlem), Jean-Michel Basquiat, Double Consciousness: Black Conceptual Art since 1970.
A former U.S. editor of “Flash Art” and editor-in-chief of “ArtAsiaPacific,” Franklin Sirmans has written widely on art and culture for such publications as “Art in America,” “The New York Times,” “Essence” and “Newsweek International.” Sirmans has also contributed monographic essays for catalogues on artists including Kevin ei-Ichi DeForest, Kehinde Wiley, Gajin Fujita, Wendell Gladstone and David Hammons.
Born in New York City in 1969, Franklin Sirmans was raised in Harlem, Albany and New Rochelle, New York. He earned English and Art History degrees from Wesleyan University, where he wrote his honors thesis on the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat.