Friday Five with Nina Chanel Abney

Chicago-born, New York-based Nina Chanel Abney is an artist making necessary waves in the contemporary art world. Her energetic, thought-provoking paintings broach subjects many people choose to avoid – race, sex, politics, religion, art history, and celebrity – each one telling a story that the viewer uncovers the longer they gaze at it. After receiving her BFA from Augustana College, she headed to Parsons School of Design earning an MFA in a graduating class where she was the only African American student. A particular piece of Abney’s thesis work displayed a glimpse of the racial imbalances happening in the world around her, catching the attention of a prominent NYC gallery. That initial showing, where her piece sold in days, led to being included in numerous collections around the world, including the Brooklyn Museum, The Rubell Family Collection, Bronx Museum, and the Burger Collection, Hong Kong. Her first solo exhibition opened at the Nasher Museum of Art in North Carolina this year with many more to come, I’m sure. It’s also no surprise Swizz Beatz took notice of Abney’s work and included her in his No Commission global art fair this year, which helps bring notice to up-and-coming artists while giving them 100% of their sales. We, for one, can’t wait to see the heights her career is going to reach. This week’s Friday Five gets a look at the five things this emerging artist chose. Take a look.

1. A wide brim hat
I love a great hat, and a wide brim hat is a must for me. No matter what you’re wearing or how you’re feeling, when you put on a hat like that, it changes everything. You can have on jeans and a tee – a hat adds mystery and sophistication.

Photo by J Caldwell, Nasher Museum Blog

2. My friends
I wouldn’t be where I am at, today, without supportive friends and a great crew. My people keep me grounded and they offer honest feedback, when I need it. We are always pushing each other to expand and develop, we all inspire and help one another to do better. It’s like a susu – we all contribute and come together to support another.

Photo by Leandro Justen/BFA

3. Swizz Beatz and BACARDÍ X The Dean Collection’s No Commission Global Art Platform
Swizz Beatz is an inspiration to me, with the way he’s using his knowledge of the music business and using his ability to bring people together through music to create access for music lovers to appreciate art. As artists we all have a process – and ours are very similar. In the era of Keith Haring and Grace Jones, the music and visual arts communities were closer, and Swizz is helping to reunite us again. An innovative collaboration between The Dean Collection and BACARDÍ, No Commission is a global art platform where artists are given their exhibition space for free and 100% of the profits of each sale go directly to the artist. With No Commission, BACARDÍ and Swizz are not only broadening the audience for visual artists, but also giving the power to the artists in a field where a lot of artists often get taken advantage of. It always feels nice to get 100%.

Photo by AFP via Getty Images

4. Pablo Picasso
When one views my art, it’s evident that Pablo Picasso has been a constant source of inspiration for me. My paintings and collages are highly influenced by his geometric style and colorful, expressive elements. I love how innovative he was with different, distinct periods throughout his career and was never afraid to depart from what was considered “traditional” up until that point. He took risks and evolved with stylistic versatility over the course of his long career.

5. Netflix
Who doesn’t love a good binge-watch on Netflix? At the moment, I’ve been binge-watching The Get Down.

Caroline Williamson is Editorial Director of Design Milk. She has a BFA in photography from SCAD and can usually be found searching for vintage wares, doing New York Times crossword puzzles in pen, or reworking playlists on Spotify.