Okwui Enwezor

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Okwui Enwezor


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Haus der Kunst, Germany

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Okwui Enwezor was a Nigerian curator, art critic, writer, poet, and educator, specializing in art history. Enwezor was born in Calabar, Nigeria, in 1963, and grew up in Enugu. He moved to New York in the early 1980s, and earned his undergraduate degree in political science from what is now New Jersey City University. He wrote and performed poetry, and like so many in that field, he soon found his way into art criticism. In the early 1990s, he began curating shows, and in 1994, while based in Brooklyn, he cofounded Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art. In 1996, Enwezor organized “In/Sight: African Photographers, 1940 to the Present” at the Guggenheim Museum’s location in the SoHo section of Manhattan. The show featured 30 artists, among them Seydou Keïta, of Mali, and Samuel Fosso, of Nigeria, both of whom have since been canonized. Soon after, he curated the 2nd Johannesburg Biennale, which opened in 1997. It was one in a string of the closely watched international exhibitions he oversaw over the coming two decades; he also went on to organize the 2008 Gwangju Biennale in South Korea and the 2012 Triennale at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. In 2005 Enwezor was named dean of academic affairs at the San Francisco Art Institute, where he would remain until 2009. And as an adjunct curator at the International Center of Photography in New York, he organized trailblazing exhibitions like “Snap Judgement: New Positions in Contemporary African Photography” in 2006 and “Rise and Fall of Apartheid: Photography and the Bureaucracy of Everyday Life” in 2012. In 2011, Enwezor became director of the Haus der Kunst, the sprawling kunsthalle in Munich, Germany, which under his watch hosted solo exhibitions of work by Stan Douglas, Georg Baselitz, Ellen Gallagher, James Casebere, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Hanne Darboven, Frank Bowling, Matthew Barney, and many more, as well as, in 2016, “Postwar: Art Between the Pacific and the Atlantic, 1945–1965,” an unprecedented survey of the story of postwar modernism around the world that included some 350 pieces by more than 200 artists. Enwezor passed away on 15 March 2019.

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“Okwui Enwezor,” NTU CCA Singapore Digital Archive, accessed November 29, 2022, https://ntuccasingapore.omeka.net/items/show/4076.