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ICA’s 2021 Foster Prize goes to three artists who ‘help illuminate the way forward’

The 2021 Foster Prize winners are, from left, Dell Marie Hamilton, Eben Haines, and Marlon Forrester.Terrence Jennings and ICA Boston

The Institute of Contemporary Art Boston has announced the winners of its 2021 James and Audrey Foster Prize: Marlon Forrester, Eben Haines, and Dell Marie Hamilton.

The prize, which was established by James and Audrey Foster in 1999, recognizes the work of three Boston-based artists by providing funding and an exhibition at the ICA.

“Receiving this specific award is so important,” said Forrester, a Boston-based artist and educator born in Guyana. “It shows that I’ve reached a certain era in my maturation as an artist and I’m being acknowledged in a public space. But it also allows my work to stand with these other artists who are my same caliber. It’s an honor to be in this group of artists who explore ideas around identity and multiculturalism.”


The 2021 Foster Prize artists bring distinct perspectives and styles. Forrester’s artwork details different expressions of the Black male body via paintings, drawings, collages, and multimedia works. Haines draws on the constructed nature of history for his paintings, drawings, sculptures, and installations. Hamilton uses performance, video, painting, and photography to illustrate the human body while digging into the themes of personal memory, gender, history, and citizenship.

“The works of Marlon Forrester, Eben Haines, and Dell Marie Hamilton help illuminate the way forward from the isolation and trauma of these troubled times,” said ICA director Jill Medvedow in a statement.

ICA assistant curator and publications manager Jeffrey De Blois started the Foster Prize curatorial process last March, on the heels of the state’s stay-at-home advisory and immediately preceding the killing of George Floyd. While each biennial Foster Prize exhibition is unique, De Blois said, the events of 2020 certainly influenced his selection process.

He worked his way through a list of more than 100 artists and conducted 25 studio visits to search for artists who adequately “express this moment.”


“Ultimately what allowed me to choose three artists from a field of so many incredible talents was seeing a through-line between their work,” De Blois said, “the way they think through what community means, and what ideas of exchange mean in our moment.”

In many ways, the joint exhibit can be thought of as three individual showcases, De Blois added. The 2021 Foster Prize exhibition will open Aug. 25 at the ICA.

Natachi Onwuamaegbu can be reached at