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Okwui Enwezor. Photo: Haus der Kunst.

Director Okwui Enwezor to Step Down from Munich’s Haus der Kunst

Okwui Enwezor, the renowned Nigerian curator and art historian who is known for challenging the status quo of the Euro-American-centric art world, announced that he is resigning from his post as artistic director of the Haus der Kunst in Munich because of health reasons. Enwezor has led the institution since 2011.

“There is never an ideal time to leave but I am stepping down when the Haus der Kunst is in an artistic position of strength,” Enwezor said in a statement. “It has been a great privilege to lead this exceptional institution and work with such a dedicated and talented team.”

Over the course of his twenty-five-year career, Enwezor has curated several major international exhibitions, including the second Johannesburg Biennale in 1997, the Gwangju Biennale in 2008, and La Triennale in Paris in 2012. He was also the first non-European director of Documenta (he curated the eleventh edition of the quinquennial, which took place in Kassel in 2002), as well as only the second curator to helm both Documenta and the Venice Biennale (he curated the fifty-sixth iteration of the Italian exhibition in 2015).

A champion of artists of African descent, Enwezor has curated a number of critically acclaimed exhibitions, including “Snap Judgements: New Positions in Contemporary African Photography” at the International Center of Photography in New York (2006) and Postwar: Art Between the Pacific and the Atlantic, 1945–65”  at the Haus der Kunst (2016). He also received the Award for Curatorial Excellence from Bard College’s Center for Curatorial Studies in New York in 2009 and the Folkwang Prize for his contributions to contemporary art in 2017. A prolific writer, Enwezor penned Contemporary African Art Since 1980 with Chika Okeke-Agulu in 2009, as well as a number of essays that can be read in publications such as Artforum, Frieze, and Parkett.

Commenting on Enwezor’s departure, Bavarian culture minister Marion Kiechle said that “As a result of his curatorial expertise, the institution has received worldwide recognition.” While his exhibition program was well regarded, he faced several difficulties while he was head of the institution. There was backlash against his decision to fire a museum employee who was a Scientologist, and the museum also struggled financially—last year Stefan Gros was brought in as commercial managing director to oversee the Haus der Kunst’s budget and to help curb a growing deficit.

An international search for a new artistic director is already underway. Chief curator Ulrich Wilmes and commercial director Bernhard Spies, who joined the museum in April, will assume Enwezor’s responsibilities until his replacement is found.

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