Okwui enwezor

Often named one of the most influential art critics of our time, Okwui Enwezor left a significant legacy on how we think about what, and especially who is considered in contemporary art today. 

There are many historically consequential exhibitions he curated throughout his lifetime. To name a selected few, these include In/sight, Guggenheim Museum, 1996; Johannesburg Biennale, 1997; dOCUMENTA 11, 2002; Gwangju Biennale, 2008; Triennale d’Art Contemporain of Paris, 2012; Venice Biennale, 2015. The images and catalogues from these shows almost always demonstrate his labor to speak to the bigger context of the world not shying away from difficult topics like globalism, race, and colonialism.

According to his bio, he moved from Nigeria to the US when he was 18 and attended New Jersey City University for his bachelor's degree in political science. Enwezor developed his love for poetry after his studies, and poetry eventually led him to conceptual art, especially for its use of language. 

Coverage of Okwui Enwezor's lecture at NJCU organized by Professors Martin Kruck, Midori Yoshimoto, and Deborah Jack on the school newspaper, The Gothic Times, March 17, 2008. 

Poster for the lecture at NJCU

Okwui Enwezor, Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden, 2014

Bengt Oberger, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by JJ, installing for Venice Biennale 2015

The NJCU provost office announcing the elimination of academic departments.


This commemoration is very personal to me (JJ). In 2015, I spent almost a month in Italy installing one of the pavilions at Venice Biennale as an artist assistant for the artist representing the United States. Every time there was any time for a break, I roamed around to see what everyone else was installing. When the Arsenale finally opened, I found myself in a very different show than I was used to seeing. Before then, I, a WOC in the art world, never felt like there was space for people who looked like me on the world stage. This presentation was the first non-euro-centric show I have ever seen in the contemporary art world on this scale. And I will never forget this show curated by Okwui Enwezor, the first African-born curator in the exhibition's 120-year history.

As a resident of Jersey City, the value of NJCU to our community is easy to see. Many first-generation students from Jersey City and Hudson County associate the school as an accessible option to continue their education for a degree. And when we continue to hear the news of NJCU's financial troubles and its uncertain future, I can't help to wonder if those in power know how special their place is in this world and what difference their education and their students have made on the larger scale.


My friends in Munich and here in Jersey City

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