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Okwui Enwezor - biography

Artistic Director of documenta 11

Okwui Enwezor. © Photo: Haupt & Binder, universes.art

Okwui Enwezor at HKW Berlin, Oct. 2001
© Photo: Haupt & Binder, universes.art


Okwui Enwezor, a curator, art critic, editor, writer, was born on 23 October 1963 in Calabar, Nigeria. He died of cancer on 15 March 2019 in Munich, Germany, at the age of 55.

In 1982 Enwezor moved to New York. In 1987 he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in political sciences at the New Jersey City University. He began his activities in the art field in poetry, performed at venues in the East Village, and started to publish. In 1994, Enwezor launched Nka Journal of Contemporary African Art, together with Chika Okeke-Agulu and Salah Hassan. He became associate curator at the International Center of Photography in New York.

Okwui Enwezor’s wide-ranging practice spans the world of international exhibitions, museums, academia, and publishing. He served as Director, Haus der Kunst, Munich (2011–2018) and Dean of Academic Affairs and Senior Vice-President, San Francisco Art Institute (2005–2009). Enwezor was Global Distinguished Professor in the Department of Art History, New York University (2013) and Kirk Varnedoe Visiting Professor at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University (2012).


Curatorial work (selection)

1996
In/sight: African Photographers, 1940 - Present. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Co-Curator and Editor of the publication.


1997
2nd Johannesburg Biennale, South Africa. Artistic Director
(see the interview by Binder & Haupt, July 1997, Universes in Universe)


2001
The Short Century: Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa, 1945–1994. Munich, Berlin, Chicago, New York (until 2002)


2002
documenta 11, Kassel, Germany. Artistic Director

Adjunct Curator of Contemporary Art at the Art Institute of Chicago


2006
2nd Seville Biennial. Artistic Director

Snap Judgments: New Positions in Contemporary African Photography, International Center of Photography, New York


2007–2008
7th Gwangju Biennale, South Corea. Artistic Director

Archive Fever: Uses of the Document in Contemporary Art, International Center of Photography, New York (2008)


2012
Meeting Points 6. Artistic Director

Paris Triennale. Artistic Director

Rise and Fall of Apartheid: Photography and the Bureaucracy of Everyday Life. International Center of Photography, New York


2015
56th International Art Exhibition, Venice Biennale. Artistic Director


2016-17
Postwar: Art Between the Pacific and the Atlantic, 1945–1965. Haus der Kunst, Munich


2019
El Anatsui. Triumphant Scale. Haus der Kunst, Munich


2021
Sharjah Biennial 15
Enwezor conceived the 15th edition of the Sharjah Biennial (SB15), entitled Thinking Historically in the Present. In accordance with his wishes, SB15 will be realized by Hoor Al Qasimi, as co-curator alongside a working group of Enwezor’s longtime collaborators: Tarek Abou El Fetouh, Ute Meta Bauer, Salah M. Hassan, Chika Okeke-Agulu.


Publications (selection)

Among Okwui Enwezor's many publications are Postwar: Art between the Pacific and the Atlantic, 1945–1965 (Prestel Publishing, 2017), which he co-edited; Rise and Fall of Apartheid: Photography and the Bureaucracy of Everyday Life (Prestel Publishing, 2013); Contemporary African Art Since 1980 (Damiani, 2010); Antinomies of Art and Culture: Modernity, Postmodernity, Contemporaneity (Duke University Press, 2009); and Reading the Contemporary: African Art from Theory to the Market (Iniva, 1999).


© Compiled by Universes in Universe
Photo: Haupt & Binder, 2001


documenta 11

8 June - 15 September 2002
Kassel, Germany

Artistic Director: Okwui Enwezor

Co-curators: Carlos Basualdo, Ute Meta Bauer, Susanne Ghez, Sarat Maharaj, Mark Nash, Octavio Zaya

117 artists and groups


See also in UiU:

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