Okwui Enwezor will join the San Francisco Art Institute as Dean of Academic Affairs, beginning July 1, 2005. He will take over from retiring Dean Larry Thomas.
Enwezor, a curator and writer, directed two internationally influential exhibitions in recent years: Documenta 11 in Kassel Vienna, New Delhi, and St. Lucia, and The Short Century: Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa 1945-1994 in Munich. He is the co-editor of Reading the Contemporary: African Art from Theory to the Marketplace and a regular contributor to Frieze, the International Review of African-American Art, Third Text, and other publications.
Discussing his educational philosophy, Enwezor said, “In a fundamental sense a good education provides us with the capacity to ask good questions and the tools and perspective for self-knowledge and self-liberation. In an intrinsic sense art is quite useless, yet it is meaningful and necessary in every way. It gives an orientiation for invention and exacmination…I believe art and culture can provide access to new orders of knowledge in today’s global world. So for me the challenge is not just whether the art institute can train artists of the highest quality but also if it can enable artist for their larger role in the community and the world.
“My concern is that arts education gives students the opportunity not just to be good artists but to be good citizens as well, because that’s the beginning of sovereignty. It should open them up to the sense of hospitality and generosity that art is supposed to have even if it disorients and challenges the spectator’s view of the world. The question of hospitality is crucial: Ideas that are not hospitable are dead on arrival.
“And with those two qualities comes cultural responsibility: artists give something away, but not just to be magnanimous. They have to face the possibility of the gift being refused. So they are in an ethical conundrum. First and foremost they must be concerned with their artistic integrity and the integrity of their work. But they must also face their limits and their own resistances to cultural, historical, institutional, political, and economic forces. So it’s important to create an environment that allows students to think critically, to constantly question themselves and the place of their work in broader streams of ideas.”
Enwezor was born in Kalaba, Nigeria and has had his base in the United States since relocating to New York in 1981.