Human Interest

Solo en Inglès

This audio guide highlights selected works in Human Interest: Portraits from the Whitney’s Collection, with commentary by students from PS 33 Chelsea Prep and Whitney Museum educator Melanie Adsit.

Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Portals, 2016

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Narrator: This work by Njideka Akunyili Crosby has a lot of layers. What do you notice first? One of the central images is the Nigerian-American artist herself—sitting at a table in the middle of the left-hand panel, lost in thought. It looks like there’s wallpaper on the wall behind her. But it’s actually a kind of fabric used in Nigeria to celebrate special events—in this case, Crosby’s mother’s electoral campaign for the Nigerian senate.

On the right-hand side, we see framed pictures showing different generations of the artist’s family—including parents, her grandmother, and her wedding to an American man. There’s also an old-fashioned TV, which shows the military ruler of Nigeria from when the artist was younger. Pictures and patterns are everywhere. It’s almost like a kaleidoscope of people.

Usually, when artists paint self-portraits, they’re telling you something about themselves. What do you think Crosby is telling you here? It helps to know that she moved to the United States when she was a young woman. She’s gone back and forth between the U.S. and Nigeria ever since. Maybe all of these layers tell us something about the complexity of living between two places.

A collage of a woman sitting at a table next to a collage of an empty table with portraits on the wall in the background.

Narrator: This work by Njideka Akunyili Crosby has a lot of layers. What do you notice first? One of the central images is the Nigerian-American artist herself—sitting at a table in the middle of the left-hand panel, lost in thought. It looks like there’s wallpaper on the wall behind her. But it’s actually a kind of fabric used in Nigeria to celebrate special events—in this case, Crosby’s mother’s electoral campaign for the Nigerian senate.

On the right-hand side, we see framed pictures showing different generations of the artist’s family—including parents, her grandmother, and her wedding to an American man. There’s also an old-fashioned TV, which shows the military ruler of Nigeria from when the artist was younger. Pictures and patterns are everywhere. It’s almost like a kaleidoscope of people.

Usually, when artists paint self-portraits, they’re telling you something about themselves. What do you think Crosby is telling you here? It helps to know that she moved to the United States when she was a young woman. She’s gone back and forth between the U.S. and Nigeria ever since. Maybe all of these layers tell us something about the complexity of living between two places.


Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Portals, 2016. Acrylic, solvent transfer, collage of fabric and paper, and colored pencil on paper, 83 5/8 x 206 in (212.4 x 523.2 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Purchase with funds from the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Foundation 2016.93a-b © Njideka Akunyili Crosby