As a new exhibition opens at Richard Taittinger Gallery in New York, curator Ugochukwu-Smooth C. Nzewi explores the growing impact of African art on the global stage.
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? borrows its title from Sidney Poitier’s 1967’s epic comedy-drama film, a fitting metaphor, in reference to the astute observation of art historian Chika Okeke-Agulu that African artists have indeed mastered the realpolitik of contemporary art and can now be counted as legitimate stakeholders. They have invited themselves to the dinner table of the international mainstream on their own terms. This process of enunciation began in the 1990s, a period characterized by the politics of representation, in response to unfolding globalization and neoliberal multiculturalism. This year marks an important milestone with Nigerian-born Okwui Enwezor’s 56th Venice Biennale, aptly titled All the World’s Futures, showcasing an impressive number of African artists. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? celebrates this unfolding development without losing sight of the fact that the growing acceptance of contemporary art by African artists is a work in progress. In this light, the exhibition presents works by Aida Muluneh, Amalia Ramanankirahina, Amina Menia, Beatrice Wanjiku, Chika Modum-Udok, Chike Obeagu, Ephrem Solomon Tegegn, Gopal Dagnogo, Halida Boughriet, Onyeka Ibe, Sam Hopkins and Uche Uzorka. Though plugged into the circuits of the international art world, they are not yet well known in the somewhat insular New York art world.