Enwezor's work directly challenged Eurocentrism in the art world.
Okwui Enwezor, the international renowned contemporary art curator, writer and educator, recognized as one of the foremost ambassadors of contemporary African art has passed away after a three year battle with cancer. He was 55.
Enwezor has an illustrious and noteworthy career, setting several precedents for African curators. In 2015, he became the first African-born curator to spearhead the Venice Biennale. He also became the first non-European curator to organize the German-based exhibition Documenta in 2002, according to Art News. He is the only curator to have overseen both the Venice Biennale and Documenta.
Enwezor was noted for his innovative approach that emphasized the work of international artists—challenging the art world's exclusionary Eurocentrism. He became director of the Haus Haus der Kunst in Munich, Germany in 2011, but stepped down last June.
"If we have an open mind, Western art doesn't have to be seen in opposition to art from elsewhere," he said in a 2014 interview with German site Freunde von Freunden. "But can be seen in a dialogue that helps protect the differences and decisions that present the material, circumstances and conditions of production in which artists fashion their view of what enlightenment could be."
After moving to the United Sates to study political science, the curator, who was born in Kalaba, Nigeria in 1963, founded his own art magazine in 1994. He had several career highlights throughout his decades long career, one of his earliest was when he curated the Johannesburg Biennale in 1997. "When I started, I always had what I thought was a change agenda," he told the Asia Society of New York in a 2014 interview.
His passing is a major loss to the contemporary art world, and is being felt by several followers of his work— many of whom have taken to social media to pay tribute and reflect on his many contributions to the art world.
Few (if any) curators have done more to transform the art world in the last quarter century than Okwui Enwezor. He… https://t.co/BEHjkW2dow— John Edwin Mason (@John Edwin Mason)1552663029.0
#OkwuiEnwezor was arguably one of the key curators to bring more nuance and richness to representations of Africa i… https://t.co/JJmgdKD1Jy— The Country of Africa's Water Filtration System (@The Country of Africa's Water Filtration System)1552662400.0
A photograph of Okwui Enwezor by my sister the brilliant photographer @sarahshatz. I will miss talking to Okwui abo… https://t.co/WkBhgpi9so— Adam Shatz (@Adam Shatz)1552666806.0
“There are ways in which artworks speak that aren't necessarily loud: they can whisper and still have great power”… https://t.co/zOeCtWqCPt— Biennale di Venezia (@Biennale di Venezia)1552648329.0
Heartbreaking news. RIP Okwui Enwezor. We owe a great debt for all that you brought us. Thank you, brother 🙏🏾— Smoking Dogs Films (@Smoking Dogs Films)1552644458.0
Okwui Enwezor RIP. A truly great - and ever dapper - curator, writer and champion of cultural identity. https://t.co/exlxlTCIyd— Alice Rawsthorn (@Alice Rawsthorn)1552651209.0
A great curator, Okwui Enwezor, just died. Get to know him, please, and the work that he did to change the course o… https://t.co/SZWHSKPOJX— Paola Antonelli (@Paola Antonelli)1552648094.0