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Haus der Kunst Appoints Okwui Enwezor as Director

Haus der Kunst announced the appointment of Okwui Enwezor as the next director of Haus der Kunst. Enwezor will take up the position in October 2011. He will succeed Chris Dercon, the outgoing director who will take over as director of the Tate Modern in April and will still be supervising the exhibition, “Carlo Mollino. Maniera moderna” (Haus der Kunst, September 16, 2011 – January 8, 2012).

Enwezor (b. 1963 in Calabar, Nigeria) is currently Adjunct curator at International Center of Photography, New York, and previously Dean of Academic Affairs, San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco, as well visiting Professor in Art History University of Pittsburgh, Columbia University, and University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He is currently Joanne Cassulo Fellow at the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program in New York City and artistic director of Meeting Points 6. In addition to his academic activities he has been recently appointed chief curator of La Triennale, Paris 2012 and serves as advisory curator of “Dublin Contemporary” in 2011.

Munich’s public has been familiar with Okwui Enwezor since 2001: With his exhibition, “The Short Century. Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa 1945-1994”, he presented the most extensive overview to date of artistic production in late- and post-colonial Africa. In this show, which treated art and documentary material as equals, he questioned the autonomy of art as well as the dichotomy between the private and the public.

Okwui Enwezor began studying political science in 1983 in New York. At this time he also became interested in art and found that African artists were under-represented in both exhibitions and in the global art market. By contrast, he discovered significant gaps in the historiography of art in African countries. These observations created the foundation on which Enwezor would sharpen his profile as author and curator: Enwezor consistently urged the international art market to overcome its focus on the European-American connection and supported this appeal with publications. In 1994 he founded the tri-annual magazine, “NKA: Journal of Contemporary African Art”, which he continues to edit together with Salah Hassan (Cornell University) and Chika Okeke-Agulu (Princeton University).

Enwezor has been the artistic director of several major exhibitions. In 1996-97 he was the director of the second Johannesburg Biennale in South Africa, which put a symbolic end to apartheid also from a cultural perspective. In 1998-2002 he was appointed artistic director of documenta 11 in Kassel, the first representative from a non-western country to hold this position; in 2006 he curated the Biennale for Contemporary Art Seville (“The Unhomely: Phantom Scenes in Global Society”), and in 2007-2008 the 7th Gwangju Biennale, South Korea. His thoughts on the format of major exhibitions – to be both appealing and serious and to deal with visitors’ time economically – were published in “Mega-Exhibitions and the Antinomies of a Transnational Global Form”. He has also curated numerous exhibitions on contemporary art.

The minister for education says: “Okwui Enwezor brilliantly directed documenta 11 in 2002, creating outstanding art experiences that continue to impact the world of art. As artistic director Mr. Enwezor held leading positions in Seville and Johannesburg. He is ancored in both the European and international art scene like few other figures.”

Okwui Enwezor says: “I am immensely delighted and honored to be joining Haus der Kunst in the next phase of its growth in the global landscape of contemporary art. In the last decade Haus der Kunst has been a place of great vitality and a formidable voice in advancing the key argument that serious contemporary art is as varied as the artists whose practices have been presented in its exhibitions. Munich is a great city that represents many crossroads of the global community and I look forward to working with the team at the Haus der Kunst in building an exciting platform for exhibitions, debates, and ideas.”

Image: Okwui Enwezor © Jeff Weiner

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