New Orleans Museum of Art to Present Major Survey of Wangechi Mutu

Wangechi Mutu: Intertwined Brings Together Nearly 100 Works by the Artist Spanning Her Entire Career

Two Works by Mutu Are Permanently Installed in NOMA’s Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden

On View January 31–July 14, 2024

Wangechi Mutu, Lizard Love, 2006. Mixed media, ink, spray paint, and collage on Mylar. 25 × 21 1/2 in (63.5 × 54.6 cm) 28 1/4 × 24 1/4 in (71.8 × 61.6 cm) framed. Courtesy the artist, Gladstone Gallery, and Victoria Miro Gallery.

NEW ORLEANS — The New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) will present a major solo exhibition of work by Wangechi Mutu, bringing together nearly one hundred sculptures, paintings, collages, drawings, and films to present the breadth of the Kenyan–American artist’s multidisciplinary practice from the mid-1990s to today. On view January 31–July 14, 2024, Wangechi Mutu: Intertwined traces connections between recent developments in Mutu’s sculptures and her decades-long exploration of the legacies of colonialism, globalization, and African and diasporic cultural traditions. The exhibition travels to NOMA from the New Museum, New York.

NOMA’s presentation of the exhibition is unique in connecting Mutu’s work inside the museum’s galleries with two sculptures by the artist permanently sited in NOMA’s Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden: The Seated III, 2019, one of four sculptures originally created by Mutu for niches on the facade of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Crocodylus, 2020, an otherworldly femme-reptilian hybrid figure that signals Black feminine power and sovereignty. 

“The New Orleans Museum of Art has championed Mutu’s work and we are particularly excited to bring together Wangechi Mutu: Intertwined with the holdings in our collection—literally and metaphorically offering new perspectives on the evolution of her practice and her work today,” said Susan Taylor, The Montine McDaniel Freeman Director of NOMA. “At NOMA, visitors will experience her pieces in this dynamic context as well as in dialogue with our exceptional permanent collection. We look forward to giving our visitors the opportunity to immerse themselves in Mutu’s oeuvre.”

Wangechi Mutu’s work is stunningly prescient, offering insightful contemplations of the past, present, and future of a society dominated by globalization, colonialism, and interconnectedness,” said Lisa Rotondo-McCord, Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs at NOMA. “Mutu is one of the most celebrated artists of her generation and this exhibition at NOMA offers multiple vantage points to explore Mutu’s complex body of work.”

The most complete survey of Mutu’s work to date, Intertwined is a rare opportunity to see the range and depth of the artist’s practice across her influential career and to trace the thematic throughlines and progressions in her work. Wangechi Mutu: Intertwined draws connections between the artist’s works on paper and her sculptures, featuring some of Mutu’s earliest collages, small-scale sculptures, as well as new and recent works—some made of natural materials sourced in Nairobi such as wood and soil and others cast in bronze. Included in the exhibition will be her videos The End of carrying Allseen at the Venice Biennale in 2015—My Cave Call, Cutting, and Amazing Grace; recent examples of experimental collages, including the Subterranea series (2021–22); and large-scale sculptures including In Two Canoe, For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Glider, Sleeping Serpent, Seeing Cowries, the Fertility Heal series, and her early Bottle People series.

Mutu first gained acclaim in the late 1990s for her collage-based work exploring camouflage and transformation. She extends these strategies to her work across various media, developing hybrid, fantastical forms that fuse mythical and folkloric narratives with layered social and historical references. Informed in part by her undergraduate training in anthropology and by her experience living and working in New York and Nairobi, Mutu consistently challenges the ways in which cultures and histories have traditionally been classified.

Wangechi Mutu was born in Nairobi, Kenya, and currently works between Brooklyn and Nairobi. In 2019, she inaugurated the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Facade Commission with an exhibition entitled The NewOnes, will free Us. Her work has been the subject of numerous solo shows, including I Am Speaking, Are You Listening? at Legion of Honor, San Francisco, and Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey, which traveled to Brooklyn Museum, New York; Nasher Museum of Art, Durham, North Carolina; Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami; and Block Museum, Evanston, Illinois. Mutu is the recipient of Deutsche Bank’s “Artist of the Year” award, the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Grant, the Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptors Award, and the American Federation of Arts’ Leadership Award. Mutu was included in Prospect New Orleans’ fifth edition, Yesterday we said tomorrow, in 2021, as well as its first iteration, which opened in 2008. She received her MFA from Yale University. 

Wangechi Mutu: Intertwined is organized by Vivian Crockett (Curator, New Museum) and Margot Norton (Chief Curator, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, and former Allen and Lola Goldring Senior Curator, New Museum) with Ian Wallace (Curatorial Assistant, New Museum).

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue published by the New Museum and Phaidon featuring: essays by Tina Campt, Maureen Mahon, and Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor; an interview with Mutu by exhibition curators Crockett and Norton; and an artist roundtable moderated by Nana Adusei-Poku with Firelei Báez, Kandis Williams, and Kiyan Williams.

Wangechi Mutu: Intertwined is organized by the New Museum, New York. Lead support for this exhibition is provided by the Henry Luce Foundation. Generous support for this exhibition is provided by the Ed Bradley Family Foundation, Agnes Gund, Jacques and Natasha Gelman Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support is provided by The Robert Lehman Foundation. Support for the accompanying publication has been provided by the A4 Arts Foundation.

Support for the presentation in New Orleans is provided by Delta Airlines and Robin Rankin.

About NOMA and the Besthoff Sculpture Garden
The New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) and its Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden are home to innovative exhibitions, installations, educational programs, and research. Exploring human creativity across time, cultures, and disciplines, the global scope of the museum’s initiatives open a vibrant dialogue with the history and culture of New Orleans. The museum stewards a collection of nearly 50,000 works, with exceptional holdings in African art, photography, decorative arts, and Japanese art, as well as strengths in American and French art, and an expanding collection highlighting contemporary artists. The museum’s exhibitions and dynamic learning and engagement offerings serve as a forum for visitors to engage with diverse perspectives, share cultural experiences, and foster a life of learning at all ages. Recent exhibitions include Black Orpheus: Jacob Lawrence and the Mbari Club, Called to the Camera: Black American Studio Photographers, The Orléans Collection (an exhibition of forty European masterpieces from the collection of the city’s namesake, Philippe II, Duc d’Orléans), East of the Mississippi: Nineteenth Century America Landscape Photography, Changing Course: Reflections on New Orleans Histories (seven contemporary art projects focusing on reimagining stories from the city’s past), and Ancestors of Congo Square: African Art in the New Orleans Museum of Art.  

NOMA’s 12-acre Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden expands visitors’ experiences of the museum with one of the most notable sculpture gardens in the country. The Besthoff Sculpture Garden, free and open to the public seven days a week, has nearly 100 sculptures and outdoor works situated in a unique landscape featuring Spanish moss-laden live oaks and a sinuous lagoon surrounded by an expansive ecosystem of native plants. The works in the garden range from the 19th to the 21st centuries, with pieces by Auguste Rodin, Louise Bourgeois, Ida Kohlmeyer, Claes Oldenburg, Larry Bell, Sean Scully, Fred Wilson, Maya Lin, Ursula von Rydingsvard, Teresita Fernández, Ugo Rondinone, Hank Willis Thomas, and many others. The Besthoff Sculpture Garden features contemporary design elements—including a sculpture pavilion, an amphitheater, and an architecturally significant canal link bridge connecting the garden’s original 2003 footprint with a 2019 expansion. Its water management practices support the health and resiliency of New Orleans City Park and the surrounding environment. Throughout the year, NOMA hosts outdoor programs in the Besthoff Sculpture Garden including festivals, performances, wellness classes, tours, and more.

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