Renaissance Society curator/writer Hamza Walker awarded $100,000 Ordway Prize

Hamza Walker, AB'88, Director of Education and Associate Curator for the Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago, has received one of the art world's most prominent awards, the Ordway Prize.

Selected from a global pool of contenders by a jury of leading art figures, Walker received the curator/writer award for his "significant impact on the field of contemporary art." Also honored was Polish artist Artur Zmijewski. Each winner will receive an unrestricted cash prize of $100,000 for the award, which is presented by Creative Link for the Arts and the New Museum.

"Working with artists is a reward in itself, and I feel privileged at being so generously honored for my passion," said Walker.

Known beyond Chicago's art scene for his innovative curatorial work as well as his writing and views on contemporary art, Walker is regularly published in industry magazines and exhibition catalogs. He has previously been labeled one of the "seven most influential curators in the country" by The New York Times, which also described him as"one of the museum world's most talented essayists."

"Hamza's ongoing intellectual pursuit and creative commitment have truly made him one of the most influential forces in the contemporary arts world," said Larry Norman, Deputy Provost for the Arts and Associate Professor, Romance Languages and Literature. "I know the University's arts community joins me in congratulating him on this fitting recognition for the astonishing work that he and the Renaissance Society are doing."

Walker's curating role has produced numerous influential exhibitions at the Renaissance Society, the non-collecting museum of contemporary art on Cobb Hall's fourth floor. Walker's curatorial projects there have included "Several Silences" (2009); "Black Is, Black Ain't" (2008); "Katerina Sed'a" (2008); "Meanwhile, in Baghdad" (2007); "All the Pretty Corpses" (2005); "A Perfect Union…More or Less" (2004); and "New Video, New Europe" (2004). His most recent exhibition at the Renaissance Society, a solo exhibition of photographs by Chicago-based artist Anna Shteynshleyger, is currently on view through Feb. 14.

Founded in 1915 at the University, the independent Renaissance Society has helped introduce the city to the works of such artists as Pablo Picasso, Piet Mondrian, Ferdinand Leger, Bruce Nauman and Cindy Sherman, and established itself as a champion of vanguard art. Recent exhibitions have included latter-day stars Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Helmut Jahn, Kara Walker and Michel Auder.

The Ordway Prize is named for the naturalist, philanthropist and arts patron Katherine Ordway. The prize acknowledges the contributions of a curator/arts writer and an artist whose work has had significant impact on the field of contemporary art, but who has yet to receive broad public recognition. Nominees are between the ages of 40 and 65, with a developed body of work extending over a minimum of 15 years.


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Hamza Walker of the Renaissance Society has received the $100,000 Ordway Prize, in recognition of his innovative curatorial work as well as his wide-ranging thinking and writing about contemporary art. The unrestricted cash prize is one of the most generous in the art world.

Photo by Dawoud Bey

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