Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Chris Dercon on Enwezor's appointment

I thought I should share this wonderful statement by Chris Dercon (who is leaving the Haus Der Kunst, Munich for directorship of the Tate Modern, London), about Okwui's appointment as his replacement


I have known Okwui Enwezor for a long time, both as an incredibly inspiring colleague and as a friend. I came to visit his exhibition, "The Short Century. Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa 1945-1994", in 2001 at Villa Stuck in Munich and was thrilled to see such an important, groundbreaking exhibition on post-colonialism and ’other’ modernisms in Germany, and especially in Munich.

In 2000 I travelled with Okwui and other colleagues for almost an entire month through China on a research journey, which was a true discovery for all of us, even on a personal level. Is my affinity for Okwui because he enjoys teasing me about my Belgian background? After all, I did spend much of my childhood in the gardens of the ’Museum of Africa’ in Tervuren, a colonialist museum par excellence, about whose ’cultural politics’ of the past Okwui and his African circle have a lot to say, and rightly so. In China, we debated with both each other and with Chinese scholars, artists and students, not just about the representation of "the other" in western museums, but also about the relevance of so-called "world art". We all quickly realized that Okwui’s descriptions of the arts in this global age were far more relevant and accurate; he is not only a visionary curator, but a very disciplined theorist and teacher, and a gifted writer and speaker as well. In Uli Sigg’s collection there is an amusing painting by Yan Lei entitled ’The Curators’ (2000), which reveals much about our ’Chinese’ adventure.

By this point, Okwui’s vision for "his" documenta was almost fully formed, and he indeed created what was both a truly innovative and revolutionary documenta. Since then I have closely followed his many projects involving contemporary African photography, both in New York and, of course, in Burlafingen, Neu Ulm, in collaboration with the Walther Collection. Last December, I stated in Artforum that the opening of the Walther Collection– and not to forget its accompanying publication – was one of 2010’s most important
cultural events worldwide.

I am thrilled and honoured that Okwui Enwezor has accepted the Haus der Kunst’s board and team’s offer to continue to develop this exciting art institution. I am absolutely certain he will do so in both manifold and highly unexpected ways. Finally, I hope that the Haus der Kunst and the Tate Modern will continue to work closely together, just as they have in the past. Indeed, there is still so much to learn from Okwui Enwezor, especially now that he is at the helm of the Haus der Kunst.

Chris Dercon
Munich, January 19, 2011

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