For art historians and curators working on the 20th century, these are exhilarating times – or, perhaps, agonizing ones. If, for decades, we have been spoon-fed a neatly organized and finely constructed history of art with Euro-American male masters as its protagonists, in recent years there has been a pressing need to re-examine the canon and rewrite art history in a more diverse and inclusive manner, under the rubrics of decolonization, globalization or plural modernities, among others. This is a daunting task that few have taken on, and none as brilliantly as Okwui Enwezor, who – working alongside Katy Siegel and Ulrich Wilmes – organized ‘Postwar: Art Between the Pacific and the Atlantic, 1945–1965’ at Haus der Kunst in October 2016. The exhibition is already astonishing by numbers: less for its 350 works by 218 artists than for their origin from 65 countries. Perhaps unsurprisingly, more than one Euro-American colleague pedantically told me that the history presented in this rich, complex and layered exhibition ultimately ‘failed’ or ‘fell short’. By their assessment, perhaps, without a proper grand narrative to re-orient us, we would need to hold onto the status quo. Art-historical nitpicking aside, we must consider the wide range of artists presented in this astonishing show, across eight dense sections, as a provocation – a list of artists that will fuel many young curators and scholars in the coming years. Alexander Boghossian, Saloua Raouda Choucair, Sandu Darié, Uzo Egonu, Ibrahim El-Salahi, Ben Enwonwu, Marcos Grigorian, Carmen Herrera, Ernest Mancoba, Uche Okeke, Gerard Sekoto, Anwar Jalal Shemza, Francis Newton Souza, Susanne Wenger, Fahrelnissa Zeid, Charles Hossein Zenderoudi: many monographic exhibitions of these artists’ work will appear in the near future at your local art museum, if they haven’t already.
First published in Issue 200