Feb 27, 2024 - Things to Do

Wangechi Mutu exhibition opens at New Orleans Museum of Art

A photo of a piece of art by Wangechi Mutu. It is a mixed-media image featuring an abstract portion of a woman, perhaps in profile. Her eyes are misshapen and her skin is mottled.

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 via NOMA.

A major solo exhibition featuring the work of Kenyan-American artist Wangechi Mutu is now on view at the New Orleans Museum of Art and the Besthoff Sculpture Garden.

Why it matters: The exhibition delivers an enormous, pointedly challenging body of work with nearly 100 pieces.

  • The show is so big, it takes over more of the New Orleans museum's space than anyone previous.

The intrigue: It's also NOMA's first major exhibition by an African artist since the museum came under fire last year for hiring a white curator of African art.

  • While that curator, Amanda Maples, has been involved with the exhibition's promotion, she did not create it.
  • The exhibition debuted in New York at the New Museum after creation by New Museum curator Vivian Crockett, Berkeley Art Museum chief curator Margot Norton and New Museum curatorial assistant Ian Wallace.

The exhibition, entitled "Wangechi Mutu: Intertwined," debuted in New Orleans a month ago when much of the city was in the throes of Mardi Gras, but it'll be on view through July 14.

  • It includes gallery space on the museum's first floor, plus video works screened inside the museum's theater.
  • Visitors can also find two of Mutu's sculptures permanently housed in the Besthoff Sculpture Garden, plus a third stationed there temporarily, in addition to works in the satellite gallery inside the garden.
  • "One of the primary motivators for us taking this exhibition," said NOMA deputy director for curatorial affairs and curator for Asian art Lisa Rotondo-McCord, "was to take advantage of the totality of NOMA's offerings."

Zoom in: Mutu's work plays on issues of femininity, power, race, troublesome taxonomies, beauty, disease and pleasure, Maples said during a media preview.

  • In the NOMA exhibition, visitors will see video installations as they walk toward the back gallery, the first introduction to Mutu's beautiful but unsettling and sometimes grotesque world inside.
  • In one gallery, sculptures of disease molecules pop out of the center of the room, adjacent to a wall of collages upon which red, open wounds have been gouged from the drywall.

If you go: Visiting the Besthoff Sculpture Garden is free, but the exhibition inside the museum remains ticketed.

  • Louisiana residents can visit for free on Wednesdays.
  • The exhibition will have a number of associated events, including a presentation by the artist April 3 and monthly gallery talks. The next one is March 6.

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