Adam Shatz at the LRB:
Okwui’s art world looked more like the world itself. But this was no occasion for self-congratulation, much less for exercises in the sterile American rhetoric of ‘inclusion’, which he disdained. His project was to decolonise the art world: not to make it more ‘diverse’ but to redistribute power inside it.
Art, he believed, like other human activities, took place in a field of argument and struggle over limited resources. He did not shy away from conflict, or from jousting with other curators, such as Robert Storr, with whom he engaged in furious argument over contemporary African art in the pages of Artforum. At the Venice Biennale, he staged a marathon reading of Marx’s Capital. For Okwui, decolonising the art world meant more than having more shows for artists from the Global South: it meant reappraising the entire history of Western modernism from a non-Western perspective. His last published essay was on Andy Warhol’s ‘disaster’ series, including his images of the 1963 civil rights demonstrations in Birmingham, written for the Warhol retrospective at the Whitney.