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Okwui Enwezor is an Igbo Nigerian-born American curator, art critic, writer, poet, educator, and specializing in art history. He lives in New York and Munich. In 2011, he was ranked 52 in the Art review list of the 100 most powerful people of the art world.
Okwui Enwezor was born in Calabar in Nigeria in 1963. In 1982, after a semester at the University of Nigeria, Enwezor moved to the Bronx. In 1987, he earned a bachelor of arts degree in political sciences at the New Jersey City University. Teaming up in 1993 with fellow African critics Chika Okeke-Agulu and Salah Hassan, he launched the triannual Nka Journal of Contemporary African Art from his Brooklyn apartment. After putting on a couple of small museum shows, Enwezor had his breakthrough in 1996 as a curator of In/sight, an exhibit of 30 African photographers at the Guggenheim Museum.
Enwezor is the director of the Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany. He is also adjunct curator of the International Center of Photography in New York, and Joanne Cassulo Fellow at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
Previously, Enwezor was the artistic director of the Documenta 11 exhibition in Germany (1998–2002) and the 2nd Johannesburg Biennale (1996–1997), the 7th Gwangju Biennale in South Korea (2008). He has curated numerous exhibitions in some of the most distinguished museums around the world, including Events of the Self: Portraiture and Social Identity, The Walther Collection, Germany; Archive Fever: Uses of the Document in Contemporary Art, International Center of Photography; The Short Century: Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa, 1945–1994, Museum Villa Stuck, Munich, Gropius Bau, Berlin, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, and P.S.1 and Museum of Modern Art, New York; Century City, Tate Modern, London; Mirror’s Edge, Bildmuseet, Umeå, Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, Tramway, Glasgow, Castello di Rivoli, Torino; In/Sight: African Photographers, 1940–Present, Guggenheim Museum; Global Conceptualism, Queens Museum, New York, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, List Gallery at MIT, Cambridge; David Goldblatt: Fifty One Years, Museum of Contemporary Art, Barcelona, AXA Gallery, New York, Palais des Beaux Art, Brussels, Lenbach Haus, Munich, Johannesburg Art Gallery, Johannesburg, Witte de With, Rotterdam; co-curator of Echigo-Tsumari Sculpture Biennale in Japan; co-curator of Cinco Continente: Biennale of Painting, Mexico City; Stan Douglas: Le Detroit, Art Institute of Chicago.
He was artistic director of the second edition of the Johannesburg Biennale organised in South Africa in 1997; this exhibition with the title Trade Routes gives him the first greatest visibility. He was artistic director of the Bienal Internacional de Arte Contemporaneo de Sevilla, in Seville, Spain.
He recently organized "The Rise and Fall of Apartheid" for the International Center for Photography, New York, and "Meeting Points 6", a multidisciplinary exhibition and programs "which will take place in nine Middle East, North African and European cities, from Ramallah to Tangier to Berlin", then at the Beirut Art Center in April 2011. Enwezor was also recently appointed the Artistic Director of the 2012 Paris Triennial
Okwui Enwezor serves on numerous juries, advisory bodies, and curatorial teams including: the advisory team of Carnegie International in 1999; Venice Biennale; Hugo Boss Prize, Guggenheim Museum; Foto Press, Barcelona; Carnegie Prize; International Center for Photography Infinity Awards; Young Palestinian Artist Award, Ramallah; and the Cairo, Istanbul, Sharjah, and Shanghai Biennales.
Enwezor was Dean of Academic Affairs at San Francisco Art Institute until fall 2009. He held positions as Visiting Professor in art history at University of Pittsburgh; Columbia University, New York; University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; and University of Umea, Sweden. In the Spring of 2012, he served as Kirk Varnedoe Visiting Professor at Institute of Fine Arts, New York University.
As a writer, critic, and editor, Enwezor has been a regular contributor to numerous exhibition catalogues, anthologies, and journals. He is founding editor and publisher of the critical art journal NKA: Journal of Contemporary African Art established in 1994, and currently published by Duke University Press.
His writings have appeared in numerous journals, catalogues, books, and magazines including: Third Text, Documents, Texte zur Kunst, Grand Street, Parkett, Artforum, Frieze, Art Journal, Research in African Literatures, Index on Censorship, Engage , Glendora, and Atlantica. In 2008, the German magazine 032c published a somewhat controversial interview with Enwezor, conducted by German novelist Joachim Bessing.
Among his books are Contemporary African Art Since 1980 (Bologna: Damiani, 2009) co-authored with Chika Okeke-Agulu, Antinomies of Art and Culture: Modernity, Postmodernity, Contemporaneity (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008), Reading the Contemporary: African Art, from Theory to the Marketplace (MIT Press, Cambridge and INIVA, London) and Mega Exhibitions: Antinomies of a Transnational Global Form (Wilhelm Fink Verlag, Munich), Archive Fever: Uses of the Document in Contemporary Art, and The Unhomely: Phantom Scenes in Global Society. He is also the editor of a four volume publication of Documenta 11 Platforms: Democracy Unrealized; Experiments with Truth: Transitional Justice and the Processes of Truth and Reconciliation; Creolité and Creolization; Under Siege: Four African Cities, Freetown, Johannesburg, Kinshasa, Lagos (Hatje Cantz, Verlag, Stuttgart).
In 2006, Enwezor received the Frank Jewett Mather Award for art criticism from the College Art Association. Enwezor was ranked 42 in ArtReview's guide to the 100 most powerful figures in contemporary art: Power 100, 2010.
- Rutger Pontzen, I have a global antenna (Interview with Okwui Enwezor) in "Virtual Museum Of Contemporary African Art"
- "2011 POWER 100". Art Review. Retrieved 5 October 2012.
- Adam Shatz (June 2, 2002), Okwui Enwezor's Really Big Show New York Times Magazine.
- "Okwui Enwezor La Triennale". La Triennale de Paris. 2012. Retrieved 5 October 2012.
- "Documenta 11: Okwui Enwezor". Universes in Universe. 2002. Retrieved 5 October 2012.
- OKWUI ENWEZOR - San Francisco Art Institute
- "Rise and Fall of Apartheid: Photography and the Bureaucracy of Everyday Life". International Center of Photography. 2012. Retrieved 5 October 2012.
- "Meeting Points 6. Locus Agonistes: Practices and Logics of the Civic". Beirut Art Center. Retrieved 5 October 2012.
- Journal des Arts no. 334 (November 5–18, 2010) p. 3
- http://032c.com/2008/okwui-enwezor/ "The only thing that modernity teaches us: there are no innocents," 032c issue 15 (Summer 2008).
- "Awards". The College Art Association. Retrieved 11 October 2010.
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