As reported today, Nigerian-born Okwui Enwezor has been tapped as the next director of Munich’s Haus der Kunst. He was dean of academic affairs at the San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI) from 2005 to 2009.
The leading proponent of post-colonial African art, Enwezor served as the first non-Western director of Documenta in Kassel from 1998 to 2002. Among his initiatives was the implementation of a series of “platforms”—panel discussions, talks and other events held in far-flung international cities—that led up to the quadriennial survey. The platforms were indicative of the importance that Enwezor places on the discourse that surrounds contemporary art.
Enwezor organized the 2001 exhibition “The Short Century. Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa 1945–1994” for the Museum Villa Stuck in Munich, which traveled to P.S.1, and the 2008 “Archive Fever: Uses of the Document in Contemporary Art” for New York’s International Center of Photography, where he serves as adjunct curator. Considering such interests, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a shake up in HdK’s programming. Aside from the current Marlene Dumas exhibition [through Feb. 6] and an upcoming Matt Mullican show [June 10-Sept. 11], the museum’s roster of exhibitions isn’t very Enwezorish. Shows on the horizon also include “Move: Art and Dance since the ’60s” and “Future Beauty: 30 Years of Japanese Fashion.”
Though sometimes too academic for a general public, his exhibitions have proved influential and thought-provoking. He’s been a popular choice among biennial organizers, who have selected him to curate roundups from Johannesburg (1996–97) to Gwangju (2007–08). Enwezor was recently appointed chief curator of La Triennale, Paris 2012.
Enwezor is a spirited writer and has actively participated in many of the leading discussions of exhibition strategy and politics. In 2008, he and Robert Storr went head-to-head in the letters section of Artforum over Enwezor’s critical review of Storr’s Venice Biennale. The closely followed, high-minded argument brought up issues of the politics—of content and of planning—involved in organizing biennial exhibitions.
According to ICP’s director of exhibitions, Brian Wallis, Enwezor’s hiring is a “fantastic opportunity for them and for him. He’s clearly one of the leading curatorial voices in world and has had a strong presence in Germany since Documenta.” As for what’s in store for HdK, Wallis reflected that at the SFAI Enwezor “was a bold administrator in terms of thinking broadly and setting an exciting new direction for the institution.” He went on to say that Enwezor will continue as adjunct curator at the ICP. He’s currently working on a show there called “The Rise and Fall of Apartheid,” scheduled for September 2012.
Enwezor starts at Haus der Kunst in October. He will succeed Chris Dercon, who assumes the top post at Tate Modern in April.
PORTRAIT OF ENWEZOR BY JEFF WEISS. COURTESY BARD COLLEGE