Alumnus Derrick Adams '03 Among 15 New National Academy of Design Inductees

BY Amanda Breen, January 11, 2021

Visual Arts alumnus Derrick Adams ’03 is among the National Academy of Design’s 2020 inductees. Being named a National Academician (NA) is a lifetime honor bestowed by current Academy members, who confidentially nominate and select new National Academicians each year. Members are chosen based on their “remarkable contributions to the canon and story of American art.” 


The other 2020 inductees include Cecily Brown, Enrique Chagoya, Mitch Epstein, Rafael Ferrer, Beverly Fishman, Charles Gaines, Carmen Herrera, Michael Maltzan, Toshiko Mori, Jennifer Packer, Walid Raad, Betye Saar, Beverly Semmes, and Claire Weisz. 


Founded by artists, for artists, the National Academy of Design’s chief objective was to support exhibitions and train aspiring artists. The inaugural session of the National Academy School was held on November 15, 1826 in the Old Alms House at City Hall Park in lower Manhattan; two Academicians and twenty students sketched by candlelight. 


National Academicians present work in Academy exhibitions and cultivate the next generation of creative thinkers via educational programs. Additionally, in a tradition that dates to the Academy’s founding, Academicians choose a piece of their own work to reside in the Academy’s permanent collection. 


Adams is a Baltimore-born, Brooklyn, New York-based artist whose critically acclaimed work encompasses painting, collage, sculpture, performance, video, and sound installations. His multidisciplinary practice grapples with how individuals’ ideals, aspirations, and personae become linked to specific objects, colors, textures, symbols, and ideologies. Adams interrogates the impact of popular culture on the creation of self-image and “the relationship between man and monument as they coexist and embody one another,” according to the artist’s webpage. He also explores how African American experiences converge with art history, American iconography, and consumerism. 

Adams’ solo exhibitions include Where I’m From — Derrick Adams at The Gallery in Baltimore City Hall (2019); Derrick Adams: Sanctuary at the Museum of Arts and Design, New York (2018); and Derrick Adams: Transmission at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver (2018). His work resides in the permanent collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Studio Museum in Harlem, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and the Birmingham Museum of Art.


He is a recipient of a Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Residency (2019), a Gordon Parks Foundation Fellowship (2018), a Studio Museum Joyce Alexander Wein Artist Prize (2016), and a Louis Comfort Tiffany Award (2009). After receiving his MFA from the School of the Arts, Adams went on to the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and to the Marie Walsh Sharpe Foundation Studio Program. He is an Assistant Professor of Art at Brooklyn College.