This week the Gibbes Museum of Art announced their 2019 winner for their annual 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art. Donté K. Hayes, a Georgia-based ceramicist, explores themes in Afrofuturism — a projected vision of an imagined future which critiques the historical and cultural events of the African diaspora.
The group of candidates selected as finalists for the prize was larger than usual this year — six instead of five — because of what Gibbes’ executive director Angela Mack described as the “outstanding caliber” of candidates.
The 1858 Prize for Contemporary Art, a $10,000 cash award, is presented by Society 1858, a member auxiliary group of the Gibbes that supports the museum with social and educational programs tailored for up-and-coming art patrons.
In a press release Mack said: “His works demonstrate a powerful vision, as he is at the forefront of southern contemporary art. We were extremely impressed with all of our finalists this year and want to thank everyone who submitted to Society 1858.”
Mack’s mention of Hayes’ powerful vision is intentional; in the past decade, and specifically the past year, the museum has looked at how it represents minority artists. In May, the Gibbes hosted a lecture exploring the impact of a 2009 exhibition, Prop Master, which illustrated the disparity of artists of color found in the Gibbes’ permanent collection.
The lecture, Prop Master Revisited: Race, Response, and Representation looked at the progress the Gibbes had (or had not) made in representing more African-American artists in the past 10 years.
[content-2] Prop Master Revisited was, appropriately, held during this past spring’s landmark exhibition, Black Refractions: Highlights from the Studio Museum in Harlem, a traveling exhibition that counted the Gibbes as only its second host. At the time, Mack talked to the City Paper about the significance of the Gibbes hosting, first, Prop Master, and 10 years later, Black Refractions: “We recognize our age, the fact that the institution was segregated, the fact that at one time you had to be invited, just like a private club, to be a member of the Gibbes.”
In a statement Hayes expressed his gratitude for — and the importance of — his 1858 award win: “As an artist working in the Southern United States this award is so important to recognize all the powerful artwork and creative souls working and born in the Southern region.”