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Nigerian-born Okwui Enwezor originally received his bachelor’s degree in political science, first studying in Nigeria before moving to the United States in 1982, and completing his degree at what is now New Jersey City University. After graduation, he wanted to be closer to the social scene, relocating from the Bronx to Manhattan, where he performed poetry at cafes, attended gallery openings, and danced at many of the hottest clubs. However, he recalled not feeling particularly impressed by what was happening in the art world, especially noticing that African artists had almost no exposure.

In 1994, he decided to create Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art with scholar Salah M. Hassan, artist Chika Okeke-Agulu, and scholar and artist Olu Oguibe. Still a highly regarded magazine of contemporary African art, NKA opened new doors for Mr. Enwezor. He began receiving invitations to curate art exhibits, making him an art-world fixture, as well as opportunities to work as an arts educator, which he did up until his death from cancer in 2015.

From curating the 2002 edition of Documenta 11 in Kassel, Germany, to the “Rise and Fall of Apartheid: Photography and the Bureaucracy of Everyday Life” at International Center of Photography, New York (2014), and the Venice Biennale, Italy (2015), Mr. Enwezor remained a champion not only for African artists but for artists based in Asia and Latin America, ultimately succeeding in making the discipline a more inclusive one for generations to come. ArtNews documents his 10 most important shows here.

Photo Credit: Okwui Enwezor by Andrew Russeth


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