Today the Board of Directors of the Venice Biennial announced that Okwui Enwezor has been appointed Director of the 56th incarnation of the biennial, which will open on 9 May 2015. Now 50, Enwezor has had a long and illustrious career as curator, art critic, journalist, and writer. His major international breakthrough came in 2002 when he was Art Director of Documenta 11 – an event that had a tremendous impact on the art scene of the beginning of the millennium with its focus on social critique, post-colonialism, and globalisation. Born in Nigeria, Enwezor moved to the USA as a young man and got his BA in Social Sciences there. In 1994 Enwezor and two other African critics founded NKA: Journal of Contemporary African Art, the editorial headquarters of which were located in Enwezor’s own flat in Brooklyn. This marked the starting point of a career that was first influenced by a marked interest in African art, but which gradually moved towards a more wide-ranging discourse on globalism.
For the last two years Enwezor has been the Director of the Haus der Kunst in Munich. Since the late 1990s he has headed a number of international events, from the Johannesburg biennial in 1997 to the Gwangju Biennial in South Korea in 2008 and the Triennal d’ Art Contemporain at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris last year. In other words the Venice Board of Directors have not come up with a new and startling choice, but have pulled out one of the usual suspects from the global biennial rounds. The question that is asked by many is whether Enwezor will be able to renew and reinvent his repertoire sufficiently to avoid having the upcoming biennial in Venice end up as a recycled and refurbished version of Documenta 11.
In a press release issued by the Venice Biennial, the Chairman of the Board of Directors, Paolo Baratta, is very pleased that the next Director is a person with a great deal of experience and a wide outlook on the art scene. Speaking on behalf of the Board of Directors he states that: – Enwezor has investigated, in particular, the complex phenomenon of globalisation in relation to local roots. His personal experience is a decisive starting point for the geographic range of his analysis, for the temporal depth of recent developments in the art world, and for the variegated richness of the present.
Okwui Enwezor himself has issued the following comment on his appointment: – No event or exhibition of contemporary art has continuously existed at the confluence of so many historical changes across the fields of art, politics, technology, and economics, like la Biennale di Venezia. La Biennale is the ideal place to explore all these dialectical fields of reference, and the institution of la Biennale itself will be a source of inspiration in planning the Exhibition.