Thursday, December 27, 2018

New Book Announcement: "Mapping Modernisms: Art, Indigeneity, Colonialism" (Duke UP)

Mapping Modernisms: Art, Indigeneity, Colonialism, edited by Ruth B. Phillips and Elizabeth Harney (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2018).

Contributors: Bill Anthes, Peter Brunt, Karen Duffek, Elizabeth Harney, Sandra Klopper, Heather Igloliorte, Anitra Nettleton, Chika Okeke-Agulu, Jack Rushing III, Damian Skinner, Nicholas Thomas, Norman Vorano. 

Pages: 456
Illustrations: 117 b/w; 11 color 

* This is the first volume of the Multiple Modernisms Project (2008-2017)

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

EL ANATSUI: Triumphant Scale -- Announcement

El Anatsui: Triumphant Scale

Exhibition, 08.03.19 — 28.07.19

In March 2019, Haus der Kunst will present El Anatsui: Triumphant Scale, a major survey of the work of the acclaimed artist El Anatsui (*1944, Anyako, Ghana), perhaps Africa’s most prominent living artist. This survey — the largest ever mounted on Anatsui’s work —will occupy the museum’s entire East Wing and encompass every media in the artist’s prodigious fifty-year career. As the exhibition title suggests, the survey will focus on the triumphant and monumental quality of Anatsui’s sculptures, with the signature bottle-cap series developed over the last two decades situated at the core of the presentation. Along with these ambitious works, with their imposing physical presence and dazzling colors, the exhibition will also include wood sculptures and wall reliefs spanning the mid-1970s to the late 1990s; ceramic sculptures of the late 1970s; as well as drawings, prints, and books. In addition, Anatsui will create several new sculptures responding to the sweeping scale of the museum’s galleries, including a grand outdoor work on the building’s monumental façade.

Anatsui’s artistic practice exemplifies a critical search for alternative models of artmaking that in turn question the foundation of modernist ideals of artistic autonomy and aesthetic purity. Based in Nigeria since 1975, when he arrived as a lecturer in the vibrant Department of Fine and Applied Arts at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Anatsui’s ideas were formed in the context of a creative environment marked by artistic experimentation, aesthetic research, and creative energy which existed in tandem with the belief that great art can be developed anywhere in the world, independent of the so-called art centers of the West. Anatsui and his contemporaries at Nsukka, which included world-renowned artists, writers, poets, and dramaturges, were motivated by an abiding belief that their work could contribute to enlarging the scope of artmaking in a much-expanded, global contemporary art scene. As Anatsui once stated: “Art grows out of each particular situation, and I believe that Artists are better off working with whatever their environment throws up.” The premise of this exhibition is to explore the variegated paths of creation the artist has taken to formulate a new approach to sculpture, which in turn made him one of the most formidable sculptors of our time.

The exhibition is generously supported by the Art Mentor Foundation Lucerne. The catalogue is published by Prestel.

Curated by Okwui Enwezor and Chika Okeke-Agulu (Assistant: Damian Lentini)

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Deutsche Welle Interview on "Macron Report"

Last week I attended an engaging conference: Heritage Deferred: Colonialism's Past and Present, organized by the Goethe-Institut and Prussian Heritage Foundation at the Ethnological Museum, Dahlem, in Berlin. The conference opened on November 22, ending the next day, Friday. That same Friday morning saw the release of the much anticipated Sarr-Savoy Report commissioned by French President Macron in response to his call for restitution of stolen, pillaged African art objects that came into French museums in the age of empire. Quite a few journalists came to the conference seeking opinions and responses to the report; what it means for Germany (where they are busy building a supermuseum--the Humboldt Forum--in the center of Berlin for their own ethnographic collections) and the world. Here is a podcast of my interview on Deutsche Welle that Friday:  

Sunday, October 21, 2018

International Postdoctoral Fellowship @ Princeton

**This is a fantastic, well-resourced, opportunity for postdoctoral scholars in the humanities and social sciences. --Chika
Princeton University is pleased to announce the call for applications to the Fung Global Fellows Program at the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies (PIIRS) for the 2019-20 academic year. Each year the program selects six scholars from around the world to be in residence at Princeton for an academic year and to engage in research and discussion around a common theme. This year, six fellowships will be awarded: up to two senior scholars, four early-career scholars and one postdoctoral scholar.  Fellowships are awarded to scholars employed outside the United States who are expected to return to their positions, and who have demonstrated outstanding scholarly achievement and exhibit unusual intellectual promise. During the academic year 2019-20, the topic will be “Thinking Globally.” We invite applications from scholars whose work addresses this topic in any historical period or world region and from any disciplinary background.

Applications for the Early Career and Senior Scholar fellowships are due on November 20, 2018; Postdoctoral applications are due November 9, 2018. Learn more about the topic, eligibility requirements and the application process here.

Monday, October 15, 2018

El Anatsui at the Carnegie International 2018

Image courtesy of El Anatsui and Dee Briggs

Carnegie Museum of Art. Courtesy

Leading contemporary artist El Anatsui has just completed his latest outdoor sculpture--installed on the facade of the Carnegie Museum of Art as part of this year's Carnegie International, one of the few major, international annual exhibitions hosted in the United States. At 10 x 54 meters, this tremendous work, unprecedented in its ambition and deployment of unusual material (here aluminum printing plates from local publishers, mirrors and bottle caps), this is the work of a master at the top of his game; an artist who, come to think of it, has all but reached what one might call a state of artistic grace, a place only a few artists across generations and cultures ever get to. 
But guess what? Imagine then what he is up to in Munich where he is in the process of confronting a space twice as massive as the Carnegie Museum. Fingers crossed. Come March 2018!

Getty/ACLS Postdoctoral Fellowships in the History of Art

Getty/ACLS Postdoctoral Fellowships in the History of Art

The American Council of Learned Societies invites applications for fellowships to support research and/or writing by early career scholars, made possible by the generous support of the Getty Foundation. These fellowships provide an academic year of support for scholars from around the world for a project that will make a substantial and original contribution to the understanding of art and its history. In the 2018-19 competition, ACLS will award 10 fellowships, each with a stipend of $60,000 plus up to $5,000 for research and travel costs. Awards also will include a one-week residence at the Getty Research Institute following the fellowship period.

  • Applications are welcome from scholars worldwide without restriction as to citizenship, country of residency, location of proposed work, or employment. 
  • Applicants must have a PhD that was conferred between September 1, 2013, and December 31, 2017. 
  • Applicants who earned their PhDs in and/or are currently employed in any humanistic field may apply, so long as they demonstrate that their research draws substantially on the materials, methods, and/or findings of art history. 
  • Applications must be completed in English by the applicant.
Deadline: October 24, 2018, 9 pm EDT 

More information on Getty/ACLS Postdoctoral Fellowships in the History of Art is available at Applications must be submitted through the online system at @acls1919 

Monday, September 17, 2018

"Ways of seeing, ways of showing: museums and their collections in global context," A Symposium at Pinacoteca, São Paulo

 The Pinacoteca displays its collection on a long-term exhibition inaugurated in October 2011. Called Art in Brazil: a story at the Pinacoteca de São Paulo, it follows a largely chronological order, offering the visitor a route through the unfolding of the visual arts and the creation of an art system in Brazil, from the colonial period to the 1970’s. 
As a first step in the plan to renew the presentation of the collection, the Pinacoteca’s team aims to promote a series of conversations around the displaying of national art collections in the global context.
At this time, we find a methodological and conceptual approach to the issue the most productive. Gathering scholars and museum leaders to present reflections, experiences and case studies will allow us to drawn guidelines to face the specificities of Pinacoteca’s collection and of Brazilian art stories in a global perspective. Our goal is that this gathering will promote a reflection on the display of collections upon it in the light of recent revisions in art history, such as the post-colonial debate, center-periphery world dichotomies, erudite and non-erudite art, gender and ethnicity.
Therefore, Pinacoteca will host a two-day symposium at the museum, from September 20th to 21st. We outline a set of three main issues that we propose to be addressed individually by one of the three sessions of the seminar:
Session 1 will be devoted to the question: How museums can question and expand artistic canons? Is it possible to go beyond national stories to tell global stories of art? Session 2 will be addressing the current predominance of contemporary art in the art museum world, posing the question, “all art history is contemporary history?”,  reflecting upon some experiences of contemporary art intervention in historic collections. Session 3 will be reflecting on the specific ways we narrate through exhibitions, through chronological, thematic, conceptual or comparative approaches.

September 20th, 2018
10h – 10h15- Opening session and welcoming remarks.
Jochen Volz, Diretor Geral, Pinacoteca de São Paulo.
10h20 – 11h10 - Session 1. : How museums can question and expand artistic canons? Is it possible to go beyond national stories to tell global stories of art?

Opening Conference: "Museum as Textum, Museum as Image, Museum as Agency," Eva Maria Troelenberg, University of Utrecht, Holland.
11h10 – 12h- Q & A

12h – 14h Lunch time – Gallery Visit

14h-16h30 – Session 2. All art history is contemporary history? Contemporary art interventions in historical narratives.

Panel: Agustin Pérez Rubio, Carla Zaccagnini, artist and Jochen Volz, Pinacoteca de São Paulo.
16h30-18h – Q & A

September 21st, 2018
10h -10h50 – Session 3. Ways of narrating art history in museums: comparativisms, conceptualisms and temporalities on display.

Panel: Naine Terena, UEMT, Helouise Costa, MAC-USP.
10h50 – 12h –Q & A

12h-14h Lunch time – Gallery Visit.

14h-16h Session 3 Ways of narrating art history in museums: comparativisms, conceptualisms and temporalities on display.

Closing Conference: "Curating Within and Across National Boundaries: Thoughts on Comparative Mode," Chika Okeke-Agulu, Princeton University, USA.
16h-17h – Q & A

17h-17h30 – Closing remarks, Valeria Piccoli and Fernanda Pitta, Pinacoteca de São Paulo.

Jochen Volz is the General Director of Pinacoteca de São Paulo and the curator of the Brazilian Pavilion at the 57th Biennale di Venezia (2017). He was the chief curator of the 32nd Bienal de São Paulo (2016). Between 2012 and 2015 he was Head of Programmes at the Serpentine Galleries in London. Prior, he was a curator at the Instituto Inhotim, Minas Gerais, since 2004, where he has served as General Director between 2005 and 2007 and Artistic Director between 2007 and 2012. Furthermore, he has contributed to many exhibitions throughout the world, including Terra Comunal – Marina Abramović in sesc Pompeia, São Paulo (2015), Planos de fuga, Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, São Paulo (2012), Olafur Eliasson – Your Body of Work as part of the 17th International Festival of Contemporary Art – sesc Videobrasil in the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, in sesc Pompeia and sesc Belenzinho, São Paulo (2011), The Spiral and the Square at Bonniers Konsthall, Stockholm, at Gråmølna Kunstmuseum, Trondheim, and at Sørlandets Kunstmuseum, Kristiansand (2011), the 1st Aichi Triennale in Nagoya (2010) and the presentation of Cinthia Marcelle at the Biennale de Lyon (2007). In 2009, he organized Fare Mondi / Making Worlds, the international section of the 53rd International Venice Biennale together with Daniel Birnbaum. In 2006, he guest-curated for the 27th São Paulo Biennial a special exhibition project in homage to Marcel Broodthaers with Juan Araujo, Mabe Bethônico, Marcel Broodthaers, Marilá Dardot, Tacita Dean, Meschac Gaba, Goshka Macuga, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Haegue Yang. Between 2001 and 2004, he was curator of Portikus Frankfurt am Main, where he organized individual exhibitions with Cildo Meireles, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Gilbert & George, Janet Cardiff, Jason Rhoades, Pascale Marthine Tayou, Philippe Parreno, Renée Green, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Rivane Neuenschwander and Simon Starling, amongst others. As a critic, he is writing for magazines, catalogues, and is contributing editor to Frieze.

Eva-Maria Troelenberg studied art history, history and communications at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and Venice International University. 2007: Research Assistant / Doctoral Candidate at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz. 2007-2009: Postgraduate Fellow of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation. 2010: Completed dissertation on the Munich "Exhibition of Masterpieces of Muhammadan Art" (LMU Munich). 2010-2011: Postdoc Fellow of the KHI project "Connecting Art Histories in the Museum. The Mediterranean and Asia 400-1650" (in cooperation with the State Museums in Berlin / Museum of Islamic Art). Since September 2011: Head of the Max Planck Research Group "Objects in the Contact Zone: The cross-cultural Life of Things" at Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz. Teaching assignments at LMU Munich, University of Vienna and at the Cluster of Excellence "Asia and Europe in a Global Context", University of Heidelberg. Visiting professorships at University of Munich (2013, History of Islamic Arts) and Zürich University (2016/17, Modern and Contemporary Art History). 2017: Visiting Scholar at Global Asian Series (GLASS), Leiden University. Since March 2018 Chair for modern and contemporary art history, Utrecht University.

Carla Zaccagnini was born in 1973 in Buenos Aires. In 1981 her family relocated to Brazil. She lives and works between São Paulo, Malmö and Copenhagen. Zaccagnini received her BFA in 1995 from the Fundação Armando Alvares Penteado in São Paulo. She studied with artist Nelson Leirner, who encouraged her exploration of theoretical questions through artistic practice. Zaccagnini also received an MA in Visual Poetics from the Universidade de São Paulo in 2004. Zaccagnini views her activities as an artist, curator, and critic as mutually constitutive forms of inquiry that overlap to form a conceptually driven holistic art practice. She works with a variety of media and techniques—from drawing, installation, performance, text, and video, to exhibition curating—in order to explore what she characterizes as a strategy of displacement. By recontextualizing existing objects, and ideas, Zaccagnini’s work prompts viewers to question the limitations of language and representation, the fallibility of perception, and the construction of knowledge.

Agustin Pérez Rubio was born in Valencia, Spain in 1972. He has a degree in art history from the Universidad de Valencia and a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Università di Torino. He has curated over one hundred and fifty exhibitions at important museums and art centers, biennales, etc. mainly in Europe and Latin America. Before he was Chief Curator and Director of MUSAC  2003- 2013, he organized monographic exhibitions of major artists like Pierre Huyghe, Julie Mehretu, Dora García, Pipiloti Rist, SANAA, Elmgreen and  Dragset, Harun Farocki, and Lara Almarcegui among others. He also we the responsible for the contemporary MUSAC Collection with more than 1.600 artwork. Later, as an independent curator, he curated projects that include solo shows by artists such as Superflex, Sophie Calle, Rosangela Rennó, Carlos Garaicoa, and many group shows thematically related to gender, linguistics, architecture, and politics. He was the Artistic Director of MALBA, Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires from May 2014 to June 2018, where he developed a socio-political programme dedicated to gender and feminist issues. In addition, Pérez Rubio worked together with Andrea Giunta, on the curatorial script of MALBA’s collection titled VERBOAMERICA a postcolonial revision of the Collection. Recently, he has curated solo shows of artists such as Jorge Macchi, Yoko Ono, Carlos Motta, Alexander Apóstol and the retrospective show of the collective General Idea. He is currently a member of the board of CIMAM (2017-2019) and Istambul Biennale. Recently he has been appointed as the curator for the Chilean Pavilion at Venice Biennale 2019 where he will present the work of Voluspa Jarpa.

Naine Terena (Terena/Aruak) has a Ph.D. in Education by PUC/SP, and a Master in Arts from the Unb/DF. She was a Pos-Doc fellow in Education at UFMT and PPGE/Unemat. She works as a publicist, and teaches at the Catholic University of Mato Grosso. Her company, Oráculo Comunicação, develops educational and cultural activities together with indigenous and social movements. She has an outstanding profile in social media, actively promoting indigenous rights and events. Her current research focuses on Technologies of communication and social movements (especially indigenous), arts, the body and narratives.

Helouise Costa is Associate Professor and Curator at the Museu de Arte Contemporânea da Universidade de São Paulo, where she works since 1993. She advises thesis and dissertations at the Programa de Pós-Graduação Interunidades em Estética e História da Arte and the Programa de Pós-Graduação Interunidades em Museologia, at Universidade de São Paulo. Among her books are, “A fotografia moderna no Brasil” (São Paulo: CosacNaify, 2004) and “As origens do fotojornalismo no Brasil: um olhar sobre O Cruzeiro” (Rio de Janeiro: Instituto Moreira Salles, 2012). She curated, among others,  "MAM 70" (2018); "A arte degenerada de Lasar Segall: perseguição à arte moderna em tempos de guerra"(2017-2018); “Fronteiras incertas: arte e fotografia no acervo do MAC USP” (2013-2014); “Rafael França: entre mídias” (2014) and “As origens do fotojornalismo no Brasil: um olhar sobre O Cruzeiro” (2012-2014). Her research interests are modern photography and history of exhibitions.

Chika Okeke-Agulu is Professor of African and African Diaspora art at Princeton University. His books include Obiora Udechukwu: Line, Image, Text (Skira Editore, 2016); Postcolonial Modernism: Art and Decolonization in Twentieth-Century Nigeria (Duke, 2015); and (with Okwui Enwezor), Contemporary African Art Since 1980 (Damiani, 2010). He is co-editor of Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art, and maintains the blog Ọfọdunka.  Okeke-Agulu has (co-)organized several art exhibitions, including El Anatsui: Triumphant Scale (Haus der Kunst, Munich, 2019), Who Knows Tomorrow (Nationalgalerie, Berlin, 2010), 5th Gwangju Biennale (Gwangju, 2004), The Short Century: Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa, 1945-1994 (Museum Villa Stuck, Munich, 2001), Seven Stories About Modern Art in Africa (Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, 1995), Nigerian section, First Johannesburg Biennale, 1995). As an art critic, his writings have appeared in The Guardian (Lagos), Daily Times (Lagos), Artforum International (New York), The New York Times, and The Huffington Post. Among his many awards and prizes are: Honorable Mention, The Arnold Rubin Outstanding Publication (triennial) Award (Arts Council of African Studies Association, 2017); The Melville J. Herskovits Prize for the most important scholarly work in African Studies published in English during the preceding year (African Studies Association, 2016); and Frank Jewett Mather Award for Distinction in Art Criticism (College Art Association, 2016).

Valeria Piccoli is Chief Curator at Pinacoteca de São Paulo. She holds a Ph.D. in Art History from the University of São Paulo on 19th and early 20th-century Brazilian art. Piccoli has collaborated on international projects such as Terra Brasilis (Brussels, 2011) and is co-curator of Picturing the Americas: Landscape Painting from Tierra del Fuego to the Arctic (Toronto/Bentonville/São Paulo, 2015-2016), together with Georgiana Uhlyarik and Peter John Brownlee. Her current research focuses on how museums’ displays of their collections can incorporate recent debates on post-colonialism, gender and race, among other contemporary issues.

Fernanda Pitta is Senior Curator at Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo and Lecturer in the History of Art at the Escola da Cidade, in São Paulo. She has a Ph.D. in art history from the Universidade de São Paulo. Her research interests focus primarily on 19th Century Brazilian Art in a transnational and comparative perspective, centered in a critical approach to the different paradigms of national art. She also writes regularly on modern and contemporary art. She contributes to scholarly journals on Brazilian art and art historiography. Her latest curatorial project focuses on the social construction of the artist’s image in 19th- and early 20th-century Brazilian art. She is currently an International Curators Fellow of the Association of Art Museums Curators International Foundation Engagement Program. In summer 2017, she was a fellow at Clark Art Institute as part of the Summer Collaborative Working Group, developing a comparative research on narrative models of national art across the Americas.

Monday, August 6, 2018

TSA Art Writing Master Class in Lagos this fall


The Master Class will offer:
- practising art writers/journalists the opportunity to hone their skills in art criticism.
- a one-on-one session with the workshop facilitator Prof. Okeke-Agulu, a leading art critic and art historian.
- in-depth research on the craft of writing about the arts.
- developing content, argument, and a compelling voice in art writing.

To be considered for the master class, applicants are required to:
- have a portfolio of published writings in print and/or online publications.
- be an art writer and/or journalist from West African countries only.
- have a post-secondary qualification.
- fill an application form. (download from here)
- be proficient in both written and spoken English as classes will be taught in English language only.

Applicants must submit ALL of the following documents in a single PDF file:
• Filled application form.
• CV of the applicant (not more than 2 pages).
• Two samples of published writings about art or a similar field (i.e. photography,
dance, performance, video art, etc.). Each sample writing could be an opinion,
review, short essay, or a blog post not exceeding 1500 words.
• A statement of intent to participate - 500 words maximum.

All application materials are to be submitted as an attachment in one properly
formatted pdf packet to
Participants will be selected by independent art professionals who are not members
of TSA Cultural Foundation and TSA Art Magazine.

Workshop Fee:
Only selected applicants will be notified and required to pay a participation fee of N35,000. A grant is available for one to two exceptional applications. This grant covers only the participation fee. Deserving applicant(s) will be notified during the selection phase in mid-September.

Please note, participants are responsible for their own travel, accommodation and boarding arrangements during the workshop in Lagos. TSA will provide assistance in the form of information and advice on available accommodation/boarding facilities to participants from outside Nigeria.
TSA Art Writing Master Class is organized by TSA Cultural Foundation in partnership with Goethe-Institut, Nigeria.

Master Class Program DirectorBukola Oyebode
Bukola Oyebode is an art writer, editor and publisher. She is the founder and managing editor of the visual arts magazine The Sole Adventurer (TSA). As a writer, she has made contributions to online and print magazines. She also writes for exhibition publications and has covered biennales including Dak’Art (Senegal), Venice Biennale (Italy) and Jogja Biennale XIII (Indonesia). In 2017, she was
editor of Intense Art Magazine special publication on women artists in Nigeria. Oyebode is a graduate of English from Lagos State University, Nigeria. She organises social and cultural development programs in the arts through TSA Cultural Foundation.

Master Class Program Lead Facilitator - Chika Okeke-Agulu
Professor Chika Okeke-Agulu is an artist, curator, critic and art historian. He is Director of Graduate Studies, Department of Art and Archaeology at Princeton University, and specializes in classical, modern, and contemporary African and African Diaspora art history and theory. He previously taught at The Pennsylvania State University, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and Yaba College of Technology, Lagos. He began his career in Lagos as an art critic for the newspapers African
Concord, Daily Times and Guardian.
He is the author of Obiora Udechukwu: Line, Image, Text (Skira Editore, 2016); Postcolonial Modernism: Art and Decolonization in Twentieth-Century Nigeria (Duke, 2015); and (with Okwui Enwezor), Contemporary African Art Since 1980 (Damiani, 2010). He is co-editor of Ezumeezu: Essays on Contemporary Art and Architecture, a festschrift in Honour of Demas Nwoko (Goldline & Jacobs, 2012); and Who Knows Tomorrow (König, 2010). In 2006, he edited the first ever issue of African Arts dedicated to African Modernism, and his writings have appeared in African Arts, Meridians: Feminism, Race, Internationalism, Artforum International, New York Times, Packett, Art
Journal, South Atlantic Quarterly, and October. He is co-editor of Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art and maintains the blog Ọfọdunka. His many awards include Frank Jewett Mather Award for Distinction in Art Criticism (2016), and Melville J. Herskovits Prize for the Most Important
Scholarly Work in African Studies (2016).

About Goethe-Institut
The Goethe-Institut is the Federal Republic of Germany’s cultural institute, active worldwide. They promote the study of German abroad and encourage international and cultural exchange.

About The Sole Adventurer (TSA)
The Sole Adventurer is a media and cultural projects initiative operating as TSA Art Media and TSA Cultural Foundation. The media platform publishes about contemporary visual arts from Africa on and in special print publications. Originally focused on Nigeria, the editorial interests now include other African countries, their linked diaspora locations and where the news is exciting and relevant to our growing audience. As a cultural foundation, TSA organizes projects exposing teenagers to art, sponsors their participation in art and craft workshops and organizes talk events as Art Forum Africa. TSA is generally interested in the intersections of culture,
society and education. TSA has enjoyed the support and partnership of The Netherlands Embassy in Lagos, the French Cultural Network in Nigeria, Ford Foundation, Women and Youth Art Foundation, and most recently the Goethe Institute in Nigeria.

For further communication, contact us on:
T: +234 703 123 7019
Or visit:

Saturday, August 4, 2018

My Interview with OkayAfrica on the ongoing Bodys Isek Kingelez exhibition at the MoMA, NY

Overstand: 'City Dreams,' MoMA's First Solo Exhibition by a Black African Artist

We talk to art history professor Chika Okeke-Agulu about the work of Bodys Isek Kingelez getting the ivory tower treatment

It's a dizzying spectacle. Glittering skyscrapers are counterpointed by orange, yellow, and ultramarine apartment buildings shaped into wavy lines. Just across the street, an ultra-modern office complex zig-zags upwards while a few blocks away a hotel that would be the envy of Monaco rises in an elegant V, painted cerulean blue with eggshell accents.
This fantastical cityscape is the work of Bodys Isek Kingelez (1948–2015), a self-described architect, designer, and artist from the Democratic Republic of Congo. On view in New York City at the Museum of Modern Art, the exhibition of his architectural models entitled City Dreams is the first monograph of a black African artist at the institution. As a whole, the exhibition speaks to the artist's imagined future for his country at the moment of independence from Belgium, when Kingelez first started to create his "extreme maquettes," as he called them.
To be sure, City Dreams represents an important step forward in MoMA's declared intent to build a more inclusive platform of modern and contemporary art. And, it's been met with critical applause from the New York Times, the New Yorker, and the Guardian, among numerous others.
But not everyone is so sure that MoMA has put their best foot forward by featuring Kingelez as the firstblack African to have a solo exhibition. I recently sat down with artist, critic, curator, art historian, and Princeton Professor Chika Okeke-Agulu to discuss City Dreams represents only a slight shift in the art world's discourse around African art and artists rather than the much needed wholesale change.

When did you first encounter Bodys Isek Kingelez's work? Do you remember your first impression?
I first heard of his work through the 1989 "Magiciens de la Terre" exhibition in Paris. I was an art student at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Paris was so far away, but I eventually got to see the catalog and I think that whatever I thought about his work then didn't change for quite a while. The kind of delirious imagination that produced that kind of work, combined with the context of its insertion into the public imagination, was fascinating.
I was dubious of how his work, and that of other African artists who were part of that exhibition and who later formed the core of the Pigozzi Collection, were presented as quintessential contemporary African artists because they did not go to art school, and thus pure. Such nonsense. So, I had to find a way to segregate what I thought of his work as an artist and the way that work was framed for the international public.

Bodys Isek Kingelez (Congolese, 1948-2015). Stars Palme Bouygues. 1989.van Lierde collection, Brussels. Vincent Everarts Photography Brussels

With so many different architectural styles and an ecstatic color palette, Kingelez's cityscapes are almost dizzying to look at. To an outside observer, they become places where anything can happen. Could you talk a little bit about what these works mean in the context of a post-colonial then Zaire and now Congo?

Have you seen or read about the Congolese "Les Sapeurs"? These guys who dress fabulously in the most expensive fashion?

Aha, yes. I have seen those photos.

In spite of their depressing living conditions, they create these fashions that make even the most outrageous designers in Paris look so dull. These men and women earn very little, some are even unemployed, yet they acquire the most expensive shoes, belts, sunglasses, jackets, scarves, and what have you. How does that make sense? Perhaps it is their way of defying the devastating poverty within which they live. It is almost as if they are saying "No. We do not want to give into the political, economic, and social devastation that is Congolese, post-colonial reality."
How then can one make sense of Kingelez's almost imponderable combination of architectural forms and styles, that combines both the possible and the impossible in his visually attractive, almost dizzying forms? One could see these sculptures as Kingelez's own interpretation of the very sensibility that produced the sappeurs.
When you look at Kinshasa, you see on one side the finely designed landscaped areas for the former colonizers and the Africans that now run the country. On the other side, you see vast landscapes of impoverished habitations. It seems to me that for Kingelez, living in lower-middle-class Kinshasa, his architecture is a kind of resistance to the unruly urban, architectural and socio-political realities of the Congo.

Bodys Isek Kingelez in Kinshasa, 1990.Courtesy André Magnin, Paris; photograph by André Magnin.

You write a lot about reshaping the narrative of post-colonial Africa. Within this context, how important is it to have City Dreams on display at MoMA, that is very much the ivory tower of modern art?

To be honest, I'm ambivalent about the MoMA exhibition. On the one hand, I've had an enduring critical and perhaps productive relationship with MoMA. I've collaborated with them on projects in the past, such as the "Short Century" exhibition when I had to find works of earlier African modernist in their collection that they weren't aware of or had forgotten about.
But institutions like the MoMA missed the opportunity to support African artists for such a long time. So now, we have to question their decision to promote City Dreams as the first monographic exhibition by a black African artist.
Looking at the gamut of 20th Century African art, would I select Kingelez as the first artist to be showcased in the institution that is, as you describe it, the ivory tower of modern art? Perhaps not. There are other much more significant African artists that have produced a tremendous amount of work and who have had an enduring influence within and outside of the continent. Artists like Ibrahim El SalahiSkunder BoghossianFarid BelkahiaEl AnatsuiGazbia SirryDumile Feni, etc.

Bodys Isek Kingelez (Congolese, 1948-2015). Kimbembele Ihunga (detail). 1994.© Bodys Isek Kingelez / Photo: Maurice Aeschimann. Courtesy CAAC-The Pigozzi

There is something very approachable to Kingelez's work because it is so colorful and whimsical and just because it is three dimensional.

One can definitely make an argument for that, and that's why I was involved in the writing of the catalog. I'm not against Kingelez in the exhibition. I'm thinking as a critic and a scholar who has been invested in the question of modernism and contemporary African art. I'm looking at the landscape and wondering as I would with any other institution, what choices they make in terms of their intervention in a field in which I have actively participated as an artist, critic, curator, and art historian.
I'm looking at this from the point of view of MoMA as an institution in the US that has in recent years announced its interest in modern and contemporary African art. These discussions have been in terms of what directions an institution like MoMA can take to establish a deep and meaningful interest in art from Africa, as it has with art and artists from Europe, the US, Latin America, and very recently the Arab world.
My reaction to this exhibition is within that context because Kingelez's works have been mostly an "expatriate" phenomenon, by which I mean the presentation and patronage of his work has little or no footprint in his own country where he lived and worked. This does not mean one should discount the predominantly foreign support. But it says something about how this work circulates and how it gathers meaning and value.
If an artist works in New York, you expect a robust discussion of that artist's work in New York, even if she or he has an outside audience; because it says something about how that art is or is not significant at the site of its production.

The exhibition is positioned at the MoMA as a rewriting of both the history and future of Kinshasa through his models, or "extreme maquettes" as he calls them. Do these works still contain the power to inspire that kind of imagination given that they were not presented within the context of their creation?

With all the critical potential of Kingelez's work, given the violent political history and economic disaster that has been the Congo even before independence, one could see his work as the deployment of architectural sculpture against political reality and history. The problem, however, is that the number of people living in Congo or on the continent, because they lack access to Kingelez's work or to the western art world in which it circulates, will ever see the interpretive essays about how important this work could be in terms of contributing to the project of reimagining the post-colonial nation.
The kind of readings that we have seen of the work of Kingelez highlighting its aspects of political and social critique are done outside of Kinshasa, outside of the Congo. So you wonder whether all this critical potential of Kingelez, in the way he reimagines the political and socio-economic future of the Congo, is occluded from the Congo people thus making it impossible for his work to contribute to the political and socio-economic debate. There are very few analyses of his work by art critics in the Congo who, I suspect, would have even more to say about what they think is going on in the work of Kingelez. But have they had the opportunity to encounter it, whether in New York or in Europe?

I'm curious to what extent you think an institution like MoMA has a responsibility to show collected works from the continent in the context of their creation.

The ongoing campaign for the return of ancient and traditional art looted, stolen, or forcibly extracted from Africa, mostly during the colonial period, does not pertain to modern and contemporary African art legitimately acquired by individual collectors and institutions, like the MoMA.
The problem is, what are Africans doing? Why do wealthy Africans pay little attention to supporting art and cultural institutions within their individual countries? It's not too late for them to start establishing collections that hopefully will transform into future public or private museums inside Africa.
We've seen some of this start to happen, in Egypt, South Africa, and increasingly even in places like Nigeria, where individuals are building their own private museums and collections. I'm interested in the possibility of Africans themselves putting their minds and eyes to establish small and medium scale institutions to begin to conserve important work of their artists. When you travel across the continent, you see at least two or three generations of artists who have vast amounts of their own work yet don't know what to do with it because they don't have the resources to establish spaces to conserve them. And there are virtually no public institutions in their own countries that they can trust to with their work. So they are sitting on important art and personal archives that they don't know what to do with. That is one of the many tragedies of contemporary Africa.

Lorissa Rinehart is an author, curator, and photographer. Her writings have appeared in numerous journals and magazines, she's organized art shows everywhere from the New Silent Barn to the Queens Museum, and she holds a Master's degree from New York University in Experimental Humanities.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

My Conversation with Roger Beurgel in Hamburg, July 12 @ 6PM

»Global Art History and the Encyclopedic Museum«

Jul 12 2018, 18:00 pm

How do we draw comparisons when we compare things (objects, artifacts, works of art) that cannot be compared – at least not when based on the established system of knowledge? How do we relate things to each other that have no natural (logical, historical, cultural) relationship to each other? Does art help us in this, and does the aesthetic sense help us further?
Thursday, July 12th 2018, 6 pm: Talk with Chika Okeke-Agulu (in English)
This event is included in the ticket price.
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe
20099 Hamburg

Friday, June 29, 2018

Conversation with Roger M. Buergel @ Johann Jacobs Museum, Zurich on July 15



Global Art History and the Challenge of Taste
15 Jul 2018 3:00 pm | EN
Chika Okeke-Agulu (Professor for African and African Diaspora Art, Princeton University) in conversation with Roger M. Buergel
For better or for worse, the Western canon of art is crumbling. In recent years, the modernist legacy has been extended and rearticulated and now encompasses key artists, media and formal concerns that have grown out of India, the African continent, China and South America. This reworking of modernism is also affecting the arts from the past: bronze sculptures from Benin City can no longer be treated as ethnological artifacts but are now on par with the best works of Rodin or Michelangelo. Even if we are ready to treat artworks as fundamentally equal, we should ask ourselves if the Western notion of “art” can do justice to work that has been produced under rather peculiar circumstances and with perhaps no notion of “art” in mind? In other words, how can we draw comparisons between Persian manuscripts, Mauritanian beads, Japanese lacquerware, Peruvian textiles, German woodcuts and Swiss embroidery?
Theme Talk on the occasion of the exhibition L’Afrique des Colliers: Marie-José Crespin. The event is included in the regular admission price. The conversation is held in English.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Curatorial Residency in New York City

The International Studio & Curatorial Program is a laboratory for the world’s most promising artists and curators, a place for innovation and experimentation. ISCP’s mission is:
  • to support and enhance the professional development of emerging to mid-career artists and curators from around the world
  • to introduce New York audiences to exceptional international art practices
  • to engage communities of Brooklyn and the New York City area through public programs that

ISCP supports the creative advancement of contemporary artists and curators, and promotes cultural exchange through residencies, exhibitions and public programs. Housed in a former factory in East Williamsburg, with 35 light-filled work studios and two gallery spaces, ISCP is New York’s most comprehensive international visual arts residency program, and the fourth largest worldwide. In addition, ISCP organizes innovative exhibitions, engaging public talks, and offsite projects, which are free and open all, and offers the public access to important practices and ideas in the visual arts.

ISCP connects residents to a diverse global network of colleagues build lifelong professional relation-ships. With over 1,350 alumni from more than 80 countries including the United States, ISCP hosts more than 100 residents each year. Among ISCP’s respected alumni are artists Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Elmgreen and Dragset, Claire Fontaine, Camille Henrot, Yeondoo Jung, Chi Wo Leung, Jacolby Satterwhite, Tatiana Trouvé; and curators Mai Abu ElDahab, Vit Havránek and Aneta Szylak.

ISCP Curatorial Residency Program
Program Benefits:
opportunity to propose an exhibition for two different venues--ISCP's project space or offsite at El Museo de Los Sures in Williamsburg

opportunities to speak both onsite and offsite about current projects, including presentations at ISCP Salons and at Independent Curators International's Curatorial Hub

Open Studios presentations (for April and November residents only)

field trips to cultural institutions in and outside New York

overnight field trip to art institutions outside New York City (for summer residents only)

contribute to the ISCP journal for a fee

residents are paired with senior curators for one-on-one professional development sessions (for curators-in-residence for three months or longer)

Anne Szefer Karlsen (left), Norway, 2016

Satu Oksanen (left), Finland, 2016

Rael Artel, Estonia, 2016

bimonthly private studio visits with professionals from museums, galleries, alternative spaces and publications

Possibility of working with past New York Foundation for the Arts Fellows for an exhibition in New York City

ISCP has hosted the following Curatorial Residents over the past eighteen years:

Eli Kerr, Canada
Marte Danielson Jølbo, Norway Srinivas Aditya Mopidevi, India Tess Maunder, Australia
Julia Geerlings, The Netherlands
Howie Chen, United States Rael Artel, Estonia Catherine Barnabé, Canada
Julia Geerlings, The Netherlands Anne Szefer Karlsen, Norway Hyukgue Kwon, South Korea Satu Oksanen, Finland
Hsing-Ning Huang, Taiwan Lýdia Pribišová, Slovakia Anushka Rajendran, India Elise Routledge, Australia

Iliana Antonova, Canada
Natalie Hope O'Donnell, Norway
Naveen Mahantesh, India Gun Soo Lee, South Korea Susan Gibb, Australia

Randi Grov Berger, Norway Marianna Garin, Sweden Véronique Leblanc, Canada Emilie Nilsson, Denmark
Yang Yeung, Hong Kong Claire Moeder, Canada Hilde Methi, Norway
Jan Lesak, Czech Republic

Ilaria Marotta, Italy Erlend Hammer, Norway Meiya Cheng, Taiwan Marie Perrault, Canada Melissa Keys, Australia

Wendy Fernandez, Spain Stephen Gilchrist, Australia Adéla Hrušková, Czech Republic Jau-lan Guo, Taiwan
Peter J. Amdam, Norway Jean-Michel Ross, Canada Veronika Zajacikova, Czech Republic
Astrid Honold, The Netherlands
Necmi Sönmez, Turkey

Attila Tordai-S, Romania
Vjera Borozan, Czech Republic Rosemary Forde, Australia Chiara Sartori, Italy
Joanna Zielinska, Poland

Elisabeth Byre, Norway
Susanne Ø. Saether, Norway Mihnea Mircan, Romania Miguel Amado, Portugal

Biljana Ciric, Serbia Esther Lu, Taiwan Pavlina Morganova, Czech Republic Hong-John Lin, Taiwan Branka Bencic, Croatia
Rakett (Åse Løvgern & Karolin Tampere), Norway

Antonia Majaca, Croatia Stella Fong, Hong Kong Gary Dufour, Australia Kjetil Røed, Norway Rita Palma, Portugal

Kim Stern, South Africa Sung-Eun Kang, South Korea Louise Rollman, Australia Aniko Erdosi, Hungary Radmila-Iva Jankovic, Croatia Geir Haraldseth, Norway

Veronica Wiman, Sweden
Klara Vomackova, Czech Republic Marianne Zamecznik, Norway
Agnieszka Kurant, Poland

Eivind Furnesvik, Norway
Vit Havranek, Czech Republic Mai Abu ElDahab, Egypt Rifky Effendy, Indonesia Sunny Jang, South Korea Martina Siegwolf, Switzerland

Marica Gojevic, Switzerland Christina Vegh, Switzerland Tone Hansen, Norway Hsiao-Kuei Hsu, Taiwan
Yi-Ting Lei, Taiwan
David Kulhanek, Czech Republic

Maria Vassileva, Canada Natalia Filonenko, Ukraine Adam Sutherland,
United Kingdom

Karel Cisar, Czech Republic Aneta Szylak, Poland

Theo Tegelaers, The Netherlands

Diana Popova, Canada
Martina Pachmanova, Czech Republic

Jane Farver Curatorial Residency at ISCP

December 1, 2018 – February 28, 2019

International Studio & Curatorial Program (ISCP) 1040 Metropolitan Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211

The International Studio & Curatorial Program (ISCP) is pleased to announce an open call for a fully funded three-month residency for a curator from the Global South, including a stipend for travel and housing, supported by the Jane Farver Memorial Fund.

In order to be eligible, curators must currently be a full-time resident of and have an active curatorial practice in one of countries listed below. The residency program includes 24-hour access to a private furnished office space; meetings with Visiting Critics; field trips to museums, galleries and other cultural venues; and participation in a summer Open House and public talk. The residency also includes a stipend of approximately $9,000 and additional funding to curate and produce an exhibition in ISCP’s 350 sq. ft. Project Space during early 2019. Proposals for the exhibition can be for either solo or group exhibitions, in a range of media. ISCP residents become part of a growing network of international artists and curators who are ISCP alumni. An ISCP residency has often led to critical advancement in the practices of the artists and curators in residence, and fosters a dynamic, supportive working community.

Other requirements include a working knowledge of English, being onsite at ISCP 20-hours per week, and conducting studio visits with the artists (and curators) in residence in the International Program.

The Jane Farver Memorial Fund has received support from the Lambent Foundation, Cai Guo- Qiang, John L. Moore, Kimsooja, Carolee Thea, and Jennifer Bansen.


This residency honors ISCP’s trustee Jane Farver (1947-2015), pioneering American curator and writer, who is globally recognized as a champion of contemporary artists, especially those working outside the mainstream Western art historical canon.

Among her best-known projects was the 1999 exhibition, Global Conceptualism: Points of Origin 1950s-1980s, organized while she was Director of Exhibitions
for the Queens Museum from 1992-1999, and which traveled to the Walker Art Center, Miami Art Museum and MIT List Visual Arts Center. Other presentations she curated at the Queens Museum include Across the Pacific: Contemporary Korean and Korean American Art; Cai Guo- Qiang, Cultural Melting Bath: Projects for the 20th Century; and Out of India: Contemporary Art of the South Asian Diaspora. From 1999 to 2011, Farver was director of the List Visual Arts Center at MIT, where she organized solo exhibitions and projects by artists including Mel Chin, Michael Joo, Paul Pfeiffer, Runa Islam, and Tavares Strachan.

Among numerous biennials, Farver curated the Incheon Women Artists’ Biennale in South Korea in 2011, and she was co-commissioner of the American artist Paul Pfeiffer at the 9th Cairo Biennial, and was one of six curators of the 2000 Whitney Biennial. Farver’s early career began in Cleveland, where she was director of Spaces, then she moved to New York where she was director at Tomoko Liguori Gallery, followed by directorship of the Lehman College Art Gallery in the Bronx. Her husband, the American artist and curator John L. Moore, has played an instrumental role in supporting ISCP’s efforts to build a residency in Jane Farver’s honor.


Please submit the following to by Tuesday, May 1, indicating “Jane Farver Curatorial Residency” in the subject line:
Application Form (attached)
Applicants must provide the following information: name; date of birth; place of birth; mailing address; telephone number; email address; and ethnicity.

    curriculum vitae
    images and descriptions of past curated projects or authored texts
    scanned copies of 2-3 reviews (if applicable)
    two names of references with contact information
    brief description of what you envision for the ISCP exhibition in 2019
    short description of how you envision your time at ISCP, 300 words max
    proof of residence in one of the eligible countries

ELIGIBILITY: Curators living in and from the Global South are invited to apply. Applicants may not be ISCP alumni, residents in another studio program at the same time as the Jane Farver Curatorial Residency, or enrolled in school.

SELECTION: The selection committee reviews applications based on past accomplishments and curatorial innovation. Other consideration factors are: the potential impact of the residency on the applicant and preparedness to undertake the residency and proposed project.

Interviews with finalists will be held by the selection committee. NOTIFICATION: Curators will be notified by June 30, 2018


Asia / Pacific

Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kiribati, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nauru, Nepal, Pakistan, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Vietnam

Arab States

Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestinian Territories, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen


Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cabo Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, South Africa, South Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe

South / Latin America

Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Aruba, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sint Maarten, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, Venezuela, British Virgin Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands

Commonwealth of Independent States

Armenia,  Azerbaijan,  Belarus,   Georgia,   Kazakhstan,   Moldova,   Kyrgyzstan,   Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan

The above list is gleaned from numerous websites, below. If you do not see your country but believe you are from the Global South, please inquire to

Jane Farver Curatorial Residency at ISCP December 1, 2018 February 28, 2019
Deadline to apply: June 1, 2018

Date of application:

Name: ……………………………………………………………………………….…… Email: ……………………………………………………………………………………. Telephone number: (+     ) ………………………………..…………………… Website: ………………………………………………………………………………. Country of residence: ……………………………………………………………. Country of birth: …………………………………………………………….
Address: ……………………………………………………………………………….



Please enclose the following supporting materials in your email application:

¨ curriculum vitae

¨ images and descriptions of past curated projects or authored texts

¨ scanned copies of 2-3 reviews (if applicable)

¨  two names of references with contact information: ..................................................................



¨ brief description of what you envision for the ISCP exhibition in 2019

¨ short description of how you envision your time at ISCP, 300 words max

¨ proof of residence in one of the eligible countries

Note: incomplete applications will not be reviewed. Please submit your application in a single PDF no larger than 10 MB to application@ iscp- nyc. org