On Leave Spring 2023
Ph.D., Emory University, 2004; M.F.A (painting), University of Nigeria, 1994
An artist, critic and art historian, Okeke-Agulu specializes in indigenous, modern, and contemporary African and African Diaspora art history and theory. Born in Umuahia, Nigeria, Okeke-Agulu earned an MFA (Painting) from the University of Nigeria, and PhD (Art History) from Emory University. He previously taught at The Pennsylvania State University, and University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Here at Princeton, he is Director of the Program in African Studies, Director of African World Initiative.
Professor Okeke-Agulu was appointed the Robert Sterling Clark Visiting Professor of Art History at Williams College (2007), Kirk Varnedoe Visiting Professor, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University (2020); and Slade Professor of Fine Art, University of Oxford (2023). He was Fellow at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute (2008), and a Woodrow Wilson Career Enhancement Fellow (2010). He was elected Fellow of the The British Academy in 2022.
His books include El Anatsui. The Reinvention of Sculpture (Damiani, 2022); African Artists: From 1882 to Now (Phaidon, 2021); Yusuf Grillo: Painting. Lagos. Life (Skira, 2020); Obiora Udechukwu: Line, Image, Text (Skira, 2016); Postcolonial Modernism: Art and Decolonization in Twentieth-Century Nigeria (Duke UP, 2015); and Contemporary African Art Since 1980 (Damiani, 2010). In 2006, he edited the first ever issue of African Arts Dedicated to African Modernism, and his writings have appeared in African Arts, Meridians: Feminism, Race, Internationalism, Artforum International, Packett, South Atlantic Quarterly, and October, as well as in The New York Times, The Guardian (Lagos), and Huffington Post. He is co-editor of Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art and writes the blog Ọfọdunka.
As a curator, Okeke-Agulu co-organized Samuel Fosso: Affirmative Acts, Princeton University Art Museum, 2022; and (with Okwui Enwezor) the travelling survey El Anatsui: Triumphant Scale, Haus der Kunst, Munich (2019). His many other art exhibitions, including Who Knows Tomorrow, Nationalgalerie, Berlin (2010); Fifth Gwangju Biennale (2004); The Short Century: Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa, 1945–1994, Museum Villa Stuck, Munich (2001); Seven Stories About Modern Art in Africa, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (1995) and the Nigerian section, First Johannesburg Biennale (1995). He is on the curatorial team of Sharjah Biennial (2023).
Okeke-Agulu serves on the advisory boards of the Hyundai Tate Research Centre, Tate Modern, London, The Africa Institute, Sharjah, Bët-bi/Le Korsa Museum Project, Senegal, and Edo Museum of West African Art, Benin City, Nigeria. He is also on the advisory council of Mpala Research Center, Nanyuki, Kenya; serves on the executive board of Princeton in Africa, and on the editorial board of Journal of Visual Culture. Previously, he served on the board of directors of College Art Association, and the advisory board of the Center for the Study of Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.
His many awards include Honorable Mention, Arnold Rubin Outstanding Publication Award, Arts Council of African Studies Association (2017); 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).
He is working on a book-length study of art in during the late-20th-century military dictatorships in Nigeria, and is preparing an exhibition of the work of Nigerian artist Obiora Udechukwu.
- Yusuf Grillo: Painting. Lagos. Life. (Skira, 2020)
- Obiora Udechukwu: Line, Image, Text (Skira, 2017)
- Postcolonial Modernism: Art and Decolonization in 20th-Century Nigeria (Duke University Press, 2015).
- “Globalization, Art History, and the Specter of Difference,” in Contemporary Art: 1989 to Present, ed. Alexander Dumbadze and Suzanne Hudson (Wiley-Blackwell, 2013).
- “Rethinking Mbari Mbayo: Osogbo Workshops in the 1960s, Nigeria,” in African Art and Agency in the Workshop, ed. Sidney L. Kasfir and Till Foerster (Indiana University Press, 2013).
- Ezumeezu: Essays on Nigerian Art and Architecture: A Festschrift in Honour of Demas Nwoko, coedited with Obiora Udechukwu (Goldline & Jacobs, 2012).
- “Ibrahim El-Salahi and Postcolonial Modernism in the Independence Decade,” in Ibrahim El-Salahi: A Visionary Modernist, ed. Salah M. Hassan (Museum for African Art, 2012).
- El Anatsui at The Clark, contributing author, with Alisa LaGamma (The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, 2011).
- “Mark-Making and El Anatsui’s Reinvention of Sculpture,” in El Anatsui: When I Last Wrote to You About Africa, ed. Lisa Binder (Museum for African Art, 2010).
- Phyllis Galembo: Maske, coauthored with Phyllis Galembo (Chris Boot, 2010).
- Who Knows Tomorrow, coedited with Udo Kittelmann and Britta Schmitz (Walther König, 2010).
- “The Art Society and the Making of Postcolonial Modernism in Nigeria,” South Atlantic Quarterly 109.3 (Summer 2010).