In the summer of 2020, Christie’s, the auction house, sold a pair of alusi sculptures from Eastern Nigeria, despite international clamor against the sale. In the fall, Sir David Adjaye, the acclaimed architect, unveiled his design for the Royal Museum of Benin in Nigeria that, according to the British Museum and its Nigerian collaborators will display loaned bronzes looted from the palace by British soldiers in 1897. Though seemingly unrelated, these two events are joined on the one hand by the vexed ideological foundations and practices of art history and the so-called universal museum, and, on the other, contemporary debates around colonial expropriation and restitution of African cultural heritage. This lecture combines scholarly, critical and personal perspectives on these urgent questions about decolonizing the art industry, art history and the museum.
This event will take place on March 15, 2021 as a live Webinar at 6:15pm ET (New York time). Only registered attendees will be able to access this event.
Chika Okeke-Agulu, an artist, critic and art historian, is professor of African and African Diaspora art in the Department of African American Studies, and Department of Art & Archaeology, Princeton University. His books include Yusuf Grillo: Painting. Lagos. Life (Skira, 2020); Obiora Udechukwu: Line, Image, Text (Skira, 2016); Postcolonial Modernism: Art and Decolonization in Twentieth-Century Nigeria (2015); and (with Okwui Enwezor), Contemporary African Art Since 1980 (2010). He recently co-organized, with Okwui Enwezor, El Anatsui: Triumphant Scale (Haus der Kunst, Munich, 2019). He is co-editor of Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art, has written for the New York Times and Huffington Post, and maintains the blog Ọfọdunka.
His many awards include The Melville J. Herskovits Prize for the most important scholarly work in African Studies published in English during the preceding year (African Studies Association, 2016); and Frank Jewett Mather Award for Distinction in Art Criticism (College Art Association, 2016).
Okeke-Agulu serves on the advisory boards of the Hyundai Tate Research Centre, Tate Modern, London; The Africa Institute, Sharjah. He is on the executive board of Princeton in Africa, and on the editorial boards of African Studies Review and Journal of Visual Culture.