He wrote and performed poetry, and like so many in that field, he soon found his way into art criticism.
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In the early s, he began curating shows, and in , while based in Brooklyn, he cofounded Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art. It also means art.
Then in Basaa, a language in Cameroon, Nka means discourse. Calling the magazine Nka was a way of disarming this particular notion. Soon after, he curated the 2nd Johannesburg Biennale, which opened in It was one in a string of the closely watched international exhibitions he oversaw over the coming two decades; he also went on to organize the Gwangju Biennale in South Korea and the Triennale at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris.
In Enwezor was named dean of academic affairs at the San Francisco Art Institute, where he would remain until His tenure at Haus der Kunst ended abruptly.
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In mid, the Bavarian state announced that he would leave the institution three years before his contract was up because of health concerns. Claims were aired in the press about budget shortfalls, which he adamantly denied. The achievements and successes of seven years are swept under the rug.
I have worked with passion to raise the profile of this museum, especially internationally. We have achieved so much, not only the exhibitions, performances, concerts, discussions, not just what is visible, but also the scientific research, the scholarships we have awarded. Enwezor, even while ill, remained a close confidant to artists and curators of many generations, and a reliable presence at their exhibitions.
The doors were resolutely shut. Enwezor did open doors, influencing many Eurocentric museums to make strides in collecting and highlighting modern artists who hailed from historically under-reprsented regions.
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He was Enwezor pronounced en-WEH-zore presented contemporary art against a backdrop of world history and cultural exchange. His edition of Documenta , an important exhibition that occurs once every five years in Kassel, Germany, stands as a major achievement in recent art history.
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Enwezor was enlarging art world horizons and positioning artists of the 20th century avant-garde as just a few actors in a vast ebb and flow of world civilization. Many of his most acclaimed shows were group exhibitions and biennials. Yet Mr. Enwezor also curated numerous solo exhibitions, by such figures as the South African photographer David Goldblatt and the American sculptor and filmmaker Matthew Barney. He was an educator, too, serving from to as dean of the San Francisco Art Institute.
And from until last year he was director of the Haus der Kunst , a leading Munich museum. Enwezor never doubted that an African had every right to take the lead at Western art institutions.
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That sense was reinforced after he had moved to the United States to study in the s. Okwuchukwu Emmanuel Enwezor was born on Oct. During the Biafran war of , he and his family were forced to move dozens of times, settling at last in the eastern city of Enugu. After graduating, he moved to downtown Manhattan, where he performed poetry at venues like the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, attended gallery openings and danced all night at clubs like the Palladium and the Roxy.
Yet the young Mr.
African artists, whether on the continent or in the diaspora, had almost no exposure. He decided to fill the gap by starting Nka, a magazine of contemporary African art, which he co-founded with Mr. Okeke-Agulu, the scholar Salah M. Hassan and the scholar and artist Olu Oguibe. Its first issue came out in