Okwuchukwu Emmanuel Enwezor (b. Calabar, Nigeria, 1963- d. Munich, Germany, 2019) – better known as Okwui Enwezor – was a globally renowned, Nigerian-American curator, art theorist, poet and political scientist, whose scholarship and portfolio of major projects were the focus of a recent discussion: “Meeting Worlds – On Okwui Enwezor’s Work,” hosted online by the New Museum, New York, 21 January 2021.
At a time when museums and galleries around the world are experiencing significant challenges as they strive to keep exhibition spaces and collections open to visiting publics in ways that are both safe and secure for audiences and staff alike, leading institutions like NYC’s New Museum have enhanced their web-based and digital services in an effort to continue offering a broad range of educational outputs through the hosting of online forums, showcasing virtual galleries, publishing art podcasts and presenting digitised collection content.
This particular online discussion was scheduled as a prelude to the launch of the New Museum’s exhibition – “Grief and Grievance: Art and Mourning in America” (17 February – 6 June 2021) – a project initially conceptualised by Okwui Enwezor in 2018, but which ill health prevented him from seeing through to completion. As a tribute to his friend and colleague, the director of the New Museum, Massimiliano Gioni, contacted all the artists originally invited to contribute to the project, and followed Okwui Enwezor’s curatorial blueprint to realise his curatorial vision.
I felt privileged to listen to this conversation and hear very poignant, personal reflections about what it was like to know and work with such an amazing talent over many years, by three close friends and former curatorial colleagues: Franklin Sirmans; Ute Meta Bauer; and Terry Smith.
Summaries of the contributors’ reminiscences – presented in conversation with Massimiliano Gioni – are documented below, with a selection of the art images referenced during each talk to illustrate key exhibitions and biennials from their friend’s distinguished career.