Okwui Enwezor

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Okwui Enwezor (2009)

Okwui Enwezor (born October 23, 1963 in Calabar , Nigeria ; † March 15, 2019 in Munich ) was a Nigerian curator , author and university professor . His mother tongue was Igbo . From October 2011 to June 2018 he was director of the Haus der Kunst in Munich.

life and work

Enwezor began studying political science at New Jersey City State College in 1982 after moving to New York , from which he graduated in 1987 with a bachelor's degree. His approach to art began with an interest in poetry, he performed in the Knitting Factory and wrote his first publications. In 1993, Enwezor founded the magazine NKA: Journal of Contemporary African Art , which appears three times a year, together with Salah Hassan ( Cornell University ) and Chika Okeke-Agulu ( Princeton University ) , in which they try to overcome the fixation of the international art business on the Euro-American context.

Based on this entry into the art business, he became an extraordinary curator at the International Center of Photography in New York. He was Dean of Academic Affairs at the San Francisco Art Institute (2005–2009) and visiting professor at Art History University in Pittsburgh , Columbia University New York, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and Umeå University in Sweden. Enwezor was a Joanne Cassulo Fellow of the Independent Study Program at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York (2010-2011).

Enwezor has been appointed artistic director of numerous large exhibitions. 1996–97 he directed the second Johannesburg Biennale in South Africa, 1998–2002 he was artistic director of documenta 11 in Kassel , 2006 he curated the Biennale for contemporary art in Seville , and 2007–2008 the 7th Gwangju Biennale in South Korea. He was also the artistic director of Meeting Points 6, a project for performance and visual arts in eight cities ( Beirut , Amman , Damascus , Cairo , Tunis , Tangier , Brussels and Berlin ) and chief curator of La Triennale, Paris 2012. In 2011 he was curatorial Consultant to Dublin Contemporary in Ireland.

From October 2011 to June 2018, Enwezor was director of the Haus der Kunst in Munich and thus had the opportunity to develop the exhibitions of a large international house on a long-term basis for the first time. In October 2016, his appointment was extended for a further five years, and he resigned on June 1, 2018. He justified this on the one hand with health problems, but also on the other hand with a lack of moral support. According to his own statement, he no longer felt welcome as a director. His successes are u. a. has been swept under the carpet by negative coverage of museum staff and chronic underfunding. Almost ten months later, Enwezor died as a result of his cancer.

The highlight of Enwezor's curatorial work is his function as artistic director of the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015. The press wrote about the exhibition that Enwezor shows “an effortless, sovereign anthology of global contemporary art, with a strong emphasis on political and social motivated positions. ”For his work in Venice, he claimed to exhibit“ ideas ”and to react to the overpowering development of the art market by positioning the exhibition against the market. He had Das Kapital read out completely and put the idea above the goods.

In 2018 Enwezor was elected as a Corresponding Fellow at the British Academy .

Curated exhibitions (selection)

Publications as an author

  • Events of the Self: Contemporary African Photography from the Walther Collection (Steidl, 2010)
  • Contemporary African Art Since 1980 (with Chika Okeke-Agulu; Damiani Editore, 2009)
  • Archive Fever: Uses of the Document in Contemporary Art (ICP / Steidl, 2008)
  • Large exhibitions and the antinomies of a transnational global form (Fink Verlag, 2002)


  • Eva Karcher, Alexandra Mühlauer: "I'm afraid of losing my roots." Interview with Okwui Enwezor. In: Süddeutsche Zeitung , No. 95/2014, April 25, 2014, p. 24.
  • Alexander Wulffius: Of Art Worlds and Perfect Crimes , in: Insights and Perspectives. An interview with Okwui Enwezor, 4/2014. Digital: interview
  • Carolee Thea: On curating: Interviews with ten international curators. DAP / Distributed Art Publ., New York 2009, ISBN 9781935202004 , pp. 48-57.

Editor of anthologies

  • Antinomies of Art and Culture: Modernity, Postmodernity, Contemporaneity and Alte Criolla (with Terry Smith and Nancy Condee; Duke University Press, 2008)
  • Reading the Contemporary: African Art from Theory to the Marketplace (with Olu Oguibe ; INIVA and MIT Press, 1999)


  • Swantje Karich: The worlds of Okwui Enwezor. Now he's in charge: the curator of the Venice Biennale has a mission. He wants to free art from capitalism. Is she ready for it yet? In: Die Welt, May 2, 2015, p. 27. Online version

Web links

Commons : Okwui Enwezor  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Curator and author Okwui Enwezor is dead. In: faz.net . March 15, 2019, accessed March 15, 2019
  2. Obituary e-flux , accessed on March 28, 2019
  3. Swantje Karich, Hans-Joachim Müller: He brought the world to Europe. In: welt.de . 15th March 2019.
  4. »Why is a continent like Africa discovered again and again?« Interview with Okwui Enwezor [2015], website of the Vitra Design Museum , accessed on May 5, 2017.
  5. a b House of Art: Director Okwui Enwezor resigns. Süddeutsche Zeitung , June 4, 2018, accessed on August 25, 2020 . .
  6. Carol Vogel: Okwui Enwezor to Be Visual Arts Director of Venice Biennale. In: artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com. December 5, 2013, accessed December 31, 2018 .
  7. Ulrike Knöfel: On the death of Okwui Enwezor: The world thinker . In: Spiegel Online . March 15, 2019 ( spiegel.de [accessed March 16, 2019]).
  8. ArtNews: [1] , March 15, 2019.
  9. Most important European art show: Okwui Enwezor directs the Venice Biennale. In: Spiegel Online from December 4, 2013. Accessed December 4, 2013.
  10. taz: The motto of the worlds futures , May 9, 2015
  11. Frankfurter Rundschau: "I exhibit ideas, not goods" , May 20, 2015
  12. ^ Record number of academics elected to British Academy. In: www.thebritishacademy.ac.uk. July 20, 2018, accessed December 31, 2018 .
  13. ^ Catalog In / Sight: African Photographers, 1940-Present available online in the Internet Archive .