March 6, 2019

As recent events taking place across societies around the world have demonstrated, sometimes (often) it takes a while for the truth to catch on but when it finally does, its effects have always been phenomenal and historically educidating. Such is the case with global art, (in major art museums), which recently has been undergoing major transformations, taking steps to address centuries of historical gaps and narratives that have excluded artworks and artists from certain race and ethnic groups.

On Wednesday, the Museum of Modern Art in New York announced it has chosen Nigerian-born curator Ugochukwu-Smooth C. Nzewi to be the first Steven and Lisa Tananbaum Curator at the museum’s department of Painting and Sculpture.

“I am honored to join MoMA as it continues the necessary task of telling an expansive and more inclusive story of 20th-and 21st-century art. I look forward to collaborating with colleagues across across departments in addressing historical gaps through purposeful acquisitions, advancing new programs and exhibitions that enrich our knowledge of global art, and ultimately, in writing the next chapter in history of this institution,” said Nzewi in a statement.

Nzewi, who is currently a Curator of African Art at the Cleveland Museum of Art in Ohio, will be responsible for, but not limited to assisting with the MoMA’s acquisitions program, the installation of the collection galleries, and the development of special exhibitions and catalogues.

He is scheduled to begin work at MoMA on July 22.

At the Cleveland Museum of Art, Nzewi organized the museum’s upcoming exhibition, “Second Careers: Two Tributaries in African Art , which will open later this fall on October 20 -March 8, 2020. He also co-organized with Emily Liebert, a site-specific artwork installation that integrates sounds, textiles and sculptures done by Nigerian artist Emeka Ogboh, titled ” Ámà: The Gathering Place” that will open for public viewing on August 2 through November 24.

Prior to joining the Cleveland Museum, Nzewi worked at Dartmouth College‘s Hood Museum, as the curator for African Art from 2013 until 2017. During his tenure there, he helped the museum acquired important artworks from artists, including Kader Attia, Candice Breitz, Ibrahim El-Salahi, Julie Mehretu, and Obiora Udechukwu. He also organized exhibitions, including Eric van Hove in 2016, Ukwara: Ritual Cloth of the Ekpe Secret Society in 2015 and in 2014, The Art of Weapons: Selections from the African Collection.

In welcoming Nzewi, Ann Temkin, MoMA’s Marie-Josee and Henry Kravis Chief Curator of Painting and Sculpture said she’s pleased that Nzewi, “a highly accomplished scholar and curator of African art” is joining the museum as a curator. “Smooth will bring an important perspective as we expand our collection holdings and gallery presentations in new directions across the Museum,” said Temkin.

Nzewi, who received his first degree from the University of Nigeria, Nzukka, and went on to earn a PhD in art history from Emory University, was a fellow at Smithsonian National Museum of African Art and has contributed essays to several publications as well as co-authored to books.