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Special K (Kaepernick Standing), 2018

Luis De Jesus Los Angeles is very pleased to announce that The American Academy of Arts and Letters in New York has named Peter Williams a 2021 Purchase Prize winner. Williams is among the 18 artists who will receive its 2021 awards in art. The art prizes and purchases, totaling $500,000, honor both established and emerging artists. The award winners were chosen from a group of 125 artists who had been invited to submit work. The members of this year’s award committee were: Catherine Murphy (Chair), Nicole Eisenman, Ann Hamilton, Philip Pearlstein, Judy Pfaff, Joel Shapiro, Amy Sillman, Kiki Smith, and Terry Winters.

Peter Williams painting Special K (Kaepernick Standing) (2018) was chosen for a 2021 Purchase Prize and will be placed in the permanent collection of an American museum. Williams does not have sports heroes and generally dismisses them as players in the political sense. But Colin Kaepernick proves to be very different from the average player. Williams states that "he has a point of view that includes his race (in the old days he would be considered a 'race man'), which is rare amongst the plethora of sports heroes. And he took to the knee to defy the lack of resistance to the killing of Blacks. He has turned his political stance into an ethos of respectability and resistance for all people." The composition of this painting is based on a photo of ballet dancer Vaslav Nijinski performing as the Faun in the Ballets Russes's production of "L'Après-midi d'un faune" (The Afternoon of the Faun) at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, 1912.

The Academy’s Purchase Prize program began in 1946 to place the work of talented, living American artists in museums across the country. Since the inauguration of this program, the Academy has spent nearly $5 million to purchase over 1,200 works of art. The American Impressionist painter Childe Hassam (1859-1935) founded this program through the bequest of over 400 of his works with the stipulation that the accumulated income from their sale be used to establish a fund to purchase paintings and works on paper. Similar bequests were made by Academy members Eugene Speicher (1883-1962), Louis Betts (1973-1961), and Gardner Symons (1891-1930). Since 2013, the Academy has also allocated funds for the purchase of sculpture.

The American Academy of Arts and Letters was founded in 1898 as an honor society of the country’s leading architects, artists, composers, and writers. Early members include William Merritt Chase, Childe Hassam, Julia Ward Howe, Henry James, Edward MacDowell, Theodore Roosevelt, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, John Singer Sargent, Mark Twain, and Edith Wharton. The Academy’s 300 members are elected for life and pay no dues. In addition to electing new members as vacancies occur, the Academy seeks to foster and sustain an interest in Literature, Music, and the Fine Arts by administering over 70 awards and prizes, exhibiting art and manuscripts, funding performances of new works of musical theater, and purchasing artwork for donation to museums across the country.

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