Okwui Enwezor: An art pioneer, is dead


He was one of the most important exhibition organizers in the world, the first African-born curator of the Venice Biennale, and he was the first Non-Europeans to the world-famous documenta. Now, Okwui Enwezor, has died.

He believed in the contemporary art as an idea, an approach, without cultural boundaries. “Whether it’s a work of a Chinese artist, English painter, a German photographer, or a Nigerian photographer – it belongs to the language of contemporary art, which is understood everywhere,” he said last October, the art magazine “art”.

This idea became his programme and the Nigerian Okwui Enwezor is the first Non – Europeans, initiated in 2002, the documenta, the world’s most important series of exhibitions of contemporary art In the case of “his” Documenta 11, Enwezor priorities set in the case of Migration, post-colonial heritage and globalization. For the decentralized perspectives on the modern art he has been praised often.

Four years later, in 2006, curated by Enwezor, the Biennale of contemporary art in Seville, and then, from 2007 to 2008, the Gwangju Biennale in South Korea. The climax followed in 2015: Enwezor became the first Africa-born Director of the Venice Biennale, in addition to the documenta, the most important Show for contemporary art in the world.

But first, it was not contemporary art, the moving Enwezor: His early interest in literature and specifically poetry was. He wrote his own texts and studied, after he had come in 1982 from Nigeria into the USA, in New York, literature and political science. In 1993, he founded the magazine, “Nka: Journal of Contemporary Art”, which was a crucial Forum for African-American art.

Colonialism, Critical Exhibitions

As a curator he made, among others, the colonialism of the critical exhibition “African Photographers, 1940 – Present”. She accompanied in 1996, the great continent of Africa exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

Kassel, look in the direction of Friedrichsplatz, one of the Main venues of documenta

Enwezor was not only a curator and publisher but also the author, art critic and correspondent for numerous art magazines. He gave lectures and was a visiting Professor and a member of many international panels and juries. As a true citizen of the world, his commitment to Ramallah, Cairo, Istanbul, Seville, Gwangju, San Francisco, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Illinois, led him to London, New York, Umea and Paris.

His international experience helped him to become one of the most important personalities in the art world. In 2015, the magazine “Artreview positioned it” in his Ranking of the world’s most influential people in the contemporary art scene in 17th place.

Childhood of civil war in Nigeria marked

Enwezor in October 1998 in Kassel

Enwezor was born in 1963 in the Nigerian port city of Calabar on the border with Cameroon. The son of a Builder, grew up in the East of the country. More than 40 Times, he had to move with his family due to the civil war in his home country, the so-called Biafra war, in which the Christian Igbo and a Muslim Hausa and Fulani after the independence from the United Kingdom to the supremacy fought. Enwezors family belongs to the ethnic group of the Igbo. The experience of violence, displacement and flight made him never: “This feeling of being constantly in danger of being hunted. Today, tomorrow, the day after that. It was very dramatic, but my family has survived, at least in the closer circle. Two million people died at that time.” Enwezor, it was always important to create the art exchange. “Neither is there a uniform ‘Western view’, a closed ‘non-Western’ experience,” he said “kind of”. He stood for international cooperation and global issues.

Trouble at the house of art in Munich

In 2011, he became head of the famous Munich house of art. For Enwezor, it was the first Time that he supervised an exhibition house of this size alone, and for the orientation and organization are equally responsible.

The house of art in Munich

In the monumental building of the present free state of Bavaria and the “Foundation house of art,” contemporary and modern art. The house itself has no collection of its own. It is a house with a historical bias: in 1937, Adolf Hitler opened in person the Museum as a “house of German art” and made it the Symbol of the same circuit of the art in national socialism. He campaigned for a relaxed dealing with the Institution and wanted to demystify the house “”.

He managed it with his “Postwar: art between the Pacific and Atlantic, 1945-1965”. In it, he led visitors through 20 years of post-war history and showed how the artists dealt globally with the traumas of war and persecution, migration and escape movements, the end of the European colonial systems and the periods of reconstruction and dealing with the past.

The special was the global view that also took account of the perspectives of people from former colonial territories, East, West, Pacific and Atlantic regions. For the Exhibition, Enwezor has been praised widely and caused an international stir. He had contributed to the exhibition, a re-evaluation of recent art history, it said. The large number of visitors from, however, remained. However, for Enwezor, the success was not at the Museum Fund is the most Important. “Contemporary art is something Tough and challenging, nothing Catchy and the don’t like anyone,” he commented.

Image from the exhibition “post-war”, which was shown from October 2016 to March 2017 in the house of art in Munich

In 2014 he was awarded with the Federal cross of merit.

After seven years at the house of art in Munich, he resigned at the beginning of June 2018 office as the artistic Director. The house, and he turbulent times, had already: Massive money problems were known. Also, the proximity of employees to Scientology, and cases of sexual harassment made headlines. The Supervisory Board had already responded before saying goodbye and Enwezor a commercial Manager to the page.

In addition, he fought for several years against cancer. But that was only officially the reason for his departure, as he put it later. Enwezor was not completely voluntary, three years before the expiry of his term of office.

Feeling “culturally” has been devalued to be

In the Interview, which the magazine “der Spiegel” published in August 2018, he made it clear that he had not himself supported by the house of art is morally and “culturally” felt devalued.

Okwui Enwezor (2011)

The fact that he spoke no English, he said at the time, would be stressed. “This will be overemphasized in a frightening way. Some people do not even bother, my name, and pronounce correctly, but you ask me to speak German. It sounds like I should voice a – and integration test complete, but I don’t have, I’m not an immigrant, I have a niche, a Nigerian and a US passport. I came here because I was asked. They brought me from New York and hired me, although it was known that I don’t speak German.”

Risk of hostility in society

“Perhaps, our orientation didn’t fit into today’s political climate,” said Enwezor. “The political climate in this country brings a lot of people, all of what has been achieved in the past decades. And this can be seen most clearly on dealing with the refugees.” In terms of his own biography and the escape experiences of his family, he added: “Today, we see so many new disasters, Syria is just one of them, and when I hear about refugees is spoken and how some of it just political capital want to beat that, to me, shocking,” says Enwezor compared to the “mirror”.

In the same Interview, he also made his cancer public. “I’m still optimistic and full of hope,” he said – and believed that he could defy the disease. At the age of 55 years, her Okwui Enwezor is killing now.