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Inaugural art prize leads to acquisition for DePaul Art Museum

Artwork titled
Selva Aparicio's "Auto-da-Fé (Act of Faith)" has been acquired for DePaul Art Museum through a first-of-its-kind prize awarded at the annual Expo Chicago art fair.

This spring, DePaul Art Museum received the inaugural Barbara Nessim Acquisition Prize, enabling the acquisition of Chicago-based artist Selva Aparicio's "Auto-da-Fé (Act of Faith)" for the museum's permanent collection.

The prize, sponsored and awarded by Nessim, allows the recipient to purchase a work of art by a woman artist, valued up to $10,000, which is on view at the annual Expo Chicago art fair. Nessim selected DPAM to receive the award annually through at least 2025, and "Auto-da-Fé (Act of Faith)" was the museum's purchase for 2023.

Community members associated with an inaugural prize at the DePaul Art Museum
DePaul Art Museum associate curator Ionit Behar, third from left, represented the museum in receiving the inaugural Barbara Nessim Acquisition Prize. Nessim, middle, was also on hand, as was the Chicago-based artist Selva Aparicio, far left, whose work will now join DPAM's permanent collection.

"Auto-da-Fé (Act of Faith)" is made of a collected flower stem found in the cemetery near the artist's home in the north side of Chicago. The flower stem was then meticulously covered with dandelion seeds.

"We are honored and beyond grateful to Barbara Nessim for her generosity in giving this prize to DePaul Art Museum," says associate curator Ionit Behar. "We are thrilled for Barbara's choice to award this prize to Selva Aparicio and the donation of her work 'Auto-da-Fé (Act of Faith)' to DePaul Art Museum's collection. Just like Barbara, Selva defies any categorization, creating artwork from the deepest place of herself, with profound sensibility for materials and what they project into the world."

Nessim is a New York-based artist and illustrator whose career spans six decades. Her practice encompasses fine art and illustration — constantly challenging and subverting the perceived separation between the fields. In the early 1960s, Nessim was one of the first full-time professional women illustrators working in the United States, producing designs for many top publications, including The New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, Time, New York and Esquire. At the dawn of the computer age, Nessim was one of the first artists of note to begin using the computer as an artistic tool. Nessim's honors include the Pratt Lifetime Achievement Award and the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame.

Aparicio is an interdisciplinary artist working across installation, sculpture and performance to create artwork that digs deeper into ideas of memory, death, intimacy and mourning. Born and raised in the woods just outside of Barcelona, Spain, she found solace in nature from a young age and cultivated a profound interest in life and death as inspired by the natural world around her. Working with nature's ephemera, including cicada wings, lettuce leaves, oyster shells and human cadavers, her praxis is an extended death ritual that foregrounds a particular reverence for the deceased and discarded.

"I'm very honored to receive the Barbara Nessim Acquisition Prize and for the work to become part of the permanent collection at DePaul Art Museum," Aparicio says. "Auto-da-Fé or Act of Faith was inspired by the hidden meanings that materials carry in the liminal space between death and full decomposition. The idea that value can be decided in a moment, as I saw with the flowers discarded at the cemetery, raises questions about what it means to be forgotten, to lose value or even to exist in this liminal space."