Chika Okeke-Agulu

  • “African Metropolis: An Imaginary City”

    In conjunction with the second Italy-Africa Ministerial Conference this June, Rome’s MAXXI museum is hosting “African Metropolis: An Imaginary City,” an exhibition of some forty-five works, primarily by celebrated and emerging African artists. Organized by the Paris-based curator Simon Njami and MAXXI’s own Elena Motisi, it follows previous programs at the institution that have examined Mediterranean cities. But what to make of the title? The curators’ challenges will be to justify their imposition of a municipal lens onto an entire continent and to

  • Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise

    A DUTCH ARTIST decided to help Congolese agricultural laborers by training them to be artists and then selling their artistic output overseas, generating revenue with which to transform the workers’ wretched plantation world into an art-tourism and research haven. In 2012, he established the Institute for Human Activities (IHA) at KASK/School of Arts of University College Ghent, Belgium, where he and his associates planned their Congo mission, and whence they still direct it. This, in a nutshell, is the backstory and business plan of artist Renzo Martens’s Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de

  • “When Art Becomes Liberty: The Egyptian Surrealists (1938–1965)”

    ON DECEMBER 22, 1938, nearly two years after the Nazi Party organized its infamous “Entartete Kunst” (Degenerate Art) exhibition in Munich, a motley group of writers, literary critics, lawyers, and artists based in Cairo published their historic manifesto, “Long Live Degenerate Art.” Throwing their weight behind beleaguered European modernists who were being “abused and trampled underfoot” by forces of the “new Middle Ages,” this group not only aligned themselves with global antifascism, they proclaimed their faith in the primacy of individual freedom against the onslaught of nationalism in

  • Chika Okeke-Agulu

    If you told most art-world types you were interested in black British art, they might point you to Yinka Shonibare, Chris Ofili, Steve McQueen, and—maybe—a couple of others. That’s it. But if you really want to know about the history and context of this vital part of contemporary practice in the UK, Black Artists in British Art: A History Since the 1950s (I. B. Tauris) by Eddie Chambers is the book you need. Chambers writes an authoritative history of black British art, but also explores its fraught relationship with white, establishment institutions. While the early chapters focus on

  • “Beauté Congo, Congo Kitoko 1926–2015”

    This expansive and ambitious show will survey a century of modern and contemporary art in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Drawing upon the region’s rich legacy of painting, it will feature works by familiar names from the 1920s such as Albert Lubaki and Djilatendo; by Bela Sara and Pili Pili Mulongoy, members of the midcentury workshop Atelier du Hangar; and by post-’80s international stars Chéri Samba, Moke, and Chéri Cherin. While these will mingle with virtuosic street portraits by Kinshasa photographer Jean Depara, fantastic sculptural models by Bodys Isek Kingelez

  • Dak’Art 2014

    THE ELEVENTH EDITION of the Dak’Art Biennial of Contemporary African Art, which took place this past summer, may well have been the most ambitious since the exhibition’s inception in 1992. It was the largest and most diverse yet, not only showcasing emerging artists from across Africa but also including the work of many superstars from the established biennial circuit. This roster showed that the global art world must reckon with Dak’Art, which seems poised to take its place among the most established international art shows. Yet this year’s iteration also suggested that the biennial is still

  • “Georges Adéagbo: The Birth of Stockholm”

    The Beninese artist Georges Adéagbo brings to bear on his work the sensibilities of a sociologist, an archivist, an art dealer and collector, an explorer, an entrepreneur, a storyteller, a philosopher, and, if one could imagine it, a postcolonial Dadaist. The result is his brand of site-specific installation art, in which quirkily arranged text, paintings by other Beninese artists, tourist-quality “African” sculptures, and found objects from local flea markets proliferate in immersive, sensorially taxing environments. In this epically titled solo

  • “The Divine Comedy: Heaven, Hell, Purgatory from the Perspective of Contemporary African Artists”

    This big (48,000-square-foot) show, organized by Swiss-Cameroonian curator Simon Njami, will examine the sociopolitical and aesthetic concerns of more than fifty African artists. Structured thematically according to the chapters of Dante’s Divine Comedy, the exhibition will dedicate each of the museum’s three floors to an eschatological realm: heaven, hell, and purgatory. Many of the continent’s best-known names, including Zineb Sedira, Wangechi Mutu, Ghada Amer, Yinka Shonibare, Kendell Geers, Julie Mehretu, and Jane Alexander, and others less familiar on the international

  • “Afro Modern: Journeys Through the Black Atlantic”

    The anchor of this century-spanning show is Paul Gilroy’s 1993 study The Black Atlantic.

    The anchor of this century-spanning show is Paul Gilroy’s 1993 study The Black Atlantic, which debunked the notion of a universal black racial identity and argued for the centrality of the black diaspora’s role in shaping twentieth century modernist aesthetics. With five of this exhibition’s sixty-five artists hailing from Africa, “Afro Modern” avoids a major shortcoming of Gilroy’s book: the absence of discussion of objects and ideas generated by Africans in Africa. This survey of some 150 works encompasses not only diaspora artists such as Romare