Curators Corner

Legacies Established: Curators

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If anyone could avoid death, they’d be millions of people clamoring for a chance to change their fat – to change the fate of a friend, family and favourite creative. Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way. Those who make us laugh, sometimes make us cry leave us to continue the legacies they leave behind.

Today, we look at the curators that set the stage for artist, those who turned the art scene upside down, just to rebuild it in a matter of days with their own unique ideologies.

Okwui Enwezor

Born: October 23, 1963

Died: March 15, 2019

Cause of death: Cancer

Okwui Enwezor – Image courtesy of NewYork Times

Okwui Enwezor is a Nigerian-born poet, art critic, art historian and curator who helped expose the international market to African art. He was the first non-European artistic director of documenta 11, 2002 in Kassel. From March 2001 to March 2002, transdisciplinary platforms took place on four continents, fundamentally expanding the traditional format of documentary. They were conceived as discursive public interventions around present-day issues of art, politics, and society. The fifth and final platform was the exhibition in Kassel. It presented works by 117 artists, many of whom reflected on issues of global significance discussed before. He also curated the main exhibition of the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015. Whilst simultaneously being the director of Haus der Kunst in Munich from 2011 to 2018. The Guardian describes Enwezor as “a talent who made the world see contemporary art as a vital part of world history and universal cultural exchange, which must be inclusive of all shades of human civilisations and narrative.” Before his reign in the art scene the mainstream art scene had been largely the exclusive terrain of the global west. He changed all of that, and ever since his big expos at the turn of the new millennium, the packaging of international art meetings has largely towed his line.

Bisi Silva

Born: 29 May 1962 

Dead: 12 February 2019

Cause of death: Breast Cancer (according to sister, Joke Silva)

Bisi Silva
Image courtesy of National Museum of African Art

Bisi Silva was a Nigerian contemporary art curator. She got an MA in Visual Arts Administration: Curating and Commissioning Contemporary Art at the Royal College of Art, London, in 1996. Before her death, she curated several exhibitions: One, in Helsinki, Finland, in 2011. This featured the Nigerian photographer J. D. Okhai Ojeikere’s images of African women’s exotic hairstyles which she later turned into a book. Other exhibitions showed the work of the Ghanaian-born sculptor El Anatsui in Amsterdam and Johannesburg. She founded a nonprofit art gallery and education center in Lagos, Nigeria that has nurtured the growth and recognition of contemporary African artists.

Ijeoma Uche-Okeke

Born: November 18, 1972

Death: September 1, 2022

Cause of death: Pulmonary Embolism (announced by brother, Chuma Uche-Okeke)

Ijeoma Uche-Okeke
Image courtesy of ArtAfrica

Ijeoma Uche-Okeke was the Chief Executive Officer of the Asele Institute, a cultural institution founded by her late father, master artist and scholar, Uche Okeke, in 1958. She sought to preserve her father’s legacy and champion African artists by further developing Asele into a global institution. Ijeoma graduated from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka with a BA with honours in Fine and Applied Arts in 1992. Amongst her many accolades, she worked as a cultural researcher, taking part in fundamental research projects for many organisations, including the European Union and the British Council.

Author

Bardi Osobuanomola Catherine is a budding storyteller. Her academic credentials include a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Benin. She has contributed to numerous Art publications across Africa. She is currently a Writer for Art News Africa.

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