Olu Oguibe, born in 1964 in Aba, Abia, Nigeria, is an artist, cultural scientist, and internationally active curator. For almost four decades Olu Oguibe has been working as a conceptual artist and thinker with an interest in wide-ranging themes, including social and formal issues. Although the Igbo system of thought and existential principles play a critical role in Oguibe’s creative endeavors—dictating his approach to conceptualism, abstraction, and the form of the art object—the vital force behind his art is his experiences as a child in Biafra during the Nigerian Civil War in the late 1960s.
While Olu Oguibe’s work at documenta 14 in Athens is an archive of the human tragedy of the Nigerian Civil War, his work in Kassel is an affirmation of the timeless, universal principles of attention and care towards all those affected by flight and persecution. “I was a stranger and you took me in,” is written in German, English, Arabic, and Turkish on the four sides of the sixteen-meter high monument currently situated in Kassel’s Königsplatz.
The artist after studying at the University of Nigeria and receiving his doctorate in London, he taught at Goldsmiths, University of London, and the University of Illinois in Chicago, and at the University of South Florida, where he held the Stuart Golding Endowed Chair in African Art. He gave up his professorship for Painting and African-American Studies at the University of Connecticut some time ago to fully dedicate himself to his own artistic practice.
Oguibe’s work has been shown at institutions including the Whitney Museum in New York, the Whitechapel Gallery and the Barbican Centre in London, as well as in the Migros Museum in Zurich. He took part in the Venice Biennale in 2007—the first year in which Africa was first represented with a pavilion. His work has been exhibited in museums and galleries around the world and at biennials and triennials in Venice, Havana, Busan, and Johannesburg. He has also created permanent installations in Germany, Japan, and Korea, and his works are included in numerous collections.
Oguibe has curated exhibitions for various locations, including the Tate Modern in London and the Venice Biennale’s Aperto. His writing on art, literature, and theory has appeared in a long list of books, journals, and magazines. In 2013, Oguibe received the Connecticut Governor’s Arts Award for his work. He lives and works in the small town of Rockville, Connecticut. Oguibe has been awarded with the important Arnold Bode Prize 2017 from the documenta 14 City of Kassel.
Five Continents and One City (2000): 3rd International Salon of Painting at the Museo de la Ciudad de Mexico
Century City (2001), Tate Modern, London
Authentic/Ex-centric: Africa in and out of Africa (2001): 49th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia
Vidarte 2002: International Video and Media Art Festival at the Palacio Postal, Mexico City
Co-curator 2nd Biennale of Ceramics in Contemporary Art (2003) Genoa and Albisola, Italy
Oguibe has served as advisor for the Dakar, Johannesburg, and Havana biennials and as critic-in-residence at the Art Omi International artists’ residency.
Olu Oguibe (1995): Uzo Egonu: An African Artist in the West, London, Kala Press
Olu Oguibe & Okwui Enwenzor (1998): Cross/ings: Time. Space. Movement, Los Angeles, Smart Art Press
Olu Oguibe (Ed.) (1999): Reading the Contemporary: African Art from Theory to the Marketplace, Cambridge, The MIT Press.
Hassan, Salah M., and Olu Oguibe (2001):”‘Authentic/Ex-Centric’ at the Venice Biennale: African conceptualism in global contexts.” African Arts, vol. 34, no. 4, winter, https://go.gale.com/ps/i.do?p=AONE&u=googlescholar&id=GALE|A85031231&v=2.1&it=r&sid=AONE&asid=19ce16d6
Olu Oguibe (Ed.) (2001): Authentic, ex-centric: conceptualism in contemporary African art, Ithaca, NY: Forum for African Arts: Prince Claus Fund Library
Olu Oguibe, Gerald Matt & Thomas Miessgang (2002): Flash Afrique! Photography from West Africa, Göttingen, Steidl
Olu Oguibe (2003): The Culture Game, Minnesota, University of Minnesota Press
Olu Oguibe & Anthony Vidler (2004): Site Matters: The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s World Trade Center Artist Residency 1997-2001, New York, LMCC
Olu Oguibe (2007): “An Artist’s Biennale. Venice”, Frieze, https://www.frieze.com/article/artists-biennale
Loren Hansi Momodu (2013): “Looking back I Authentic/ Ex-Centric. Africa In and Out of Africa, 2001”, Go To C& América Latina, https://contemporaryand.com/magazines/looking-back-i-authentic-ex-centric-africa-in-and-out-of-africa-2001/
Eric Otieno Sumba (2020): “Olu Oguibe Creates Monuments to the Precarity of Survival” in: Frieze, https://www.frieze.com/article/olu-oguibe-creates-monuments-precarity-survival
Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung (2021): “The Curious Case of Olu Oguibe’s Monument for Strangers and Refugees” in: Frieze, https://www.frieze.com/article/olu-oguibe-monument-strangers-refugees-controversy
Authentic/Ex-centric: Africa in and out of Africa. 49th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia (2001): https://universes.art/en/venice-biennale/2001/authentic-ex-centric
Santiago Espinosa de los Monteros (2001): “Five Continents and One City”: https://www.artnexus.com/en/magazines/article-magazine-artnexus/5d62f57290cc21cf7c09d6c1/39/five-continents-and-one-city
Roundtable with Olu Oguibe, Kemang Wa Lehulere, and Vaughn Sadie (2016): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1J30LzbJy-o
Olu Oguibe – Au delà de l’Effet Magiciens (2016): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5IVFDUm15sY
documenta 14 artist Olu Oguibe and The Obelisk (2017): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VmFPwI4auPo
Whitney Jones (2017): “Exhibition | Postcolonialism + Pawns, a Throwback to Olu Oguibe’s ‘Game’”, https://cfileonline.org/exhibition-power-pawns-a-throwback-to-olu-oguibes-game/
Olu Oguibe I Curated By Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung (2020): https://www.kandlhofer.com/exhibitions/89-olu-oguibe-i-curated-by-bonaventure-soh-bejeng/
EP11: “We were brought up to strive for Eloquence”. Nkata with Olu Oguibe, NKATA, https://nkatapodcast.com/podcast/oluoguibe/