Wangechi Mutu

Art on this Day


On this day, Kenyan-born, American artist and sculptor, Wangechi Mutu, was born (22nd June 1972) in Nairobi, Kenya. Her works have gained critical acclaim around the world and have legitimised her status as an important contemporary African artist. She went to nursery, primary, and secondary school at the Loreto Convent Msongari, and then left at the age of 17 to study at the United World College of the Atlantic in Wales, where she obtained her International Baccalaureate in 1991. With the certitude that she wanted to become an artist, she decided to apply to art school in New York and was admitted to Parsons School of Art and Design. However, the curriculum to did not suit her needs and motivations, and the tuition fees were extremely high. She therefore left and attended a tuition-free university named Cooper Union, where she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts for the Advancement of the Arts and Science in 1996. She later received a Master of Fine Arts in Sculpture from Yale University in 2000.


During her time at Cooper Union she immersed herself in the art world of the 1990s and looked at how the body is politicized in art, including notions of blackness. Her work can be described as playful and inhabits a mixture of the real and the imaginary. She draws mainly from notions found in literature, history, and fables in order to explore ideas revolving around female identity and what it means to be a black woman in today’s society. Interestingly she employs different mediums, producing vivid sketches, collages, film, photography, and drawings. As a result a lot of texture is incorporated to her pieces, such as Pretty Double-Headed, a mixed media work consisting of ink, collage, and spray paint on Mylar. 



In the early 2000s, a series of successes ensured. In 2010, she was named "Artist of the Year" by the Deutsche Bank, in which the prize included a solo exhibition at the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin. This exhibition was entitled My Dirty Little Heaven, and travelled to the Wiels Center for Contemporary Art in Forest in Belgium. In 2013, Mutu was awarded the BlackStar Film Festival Audience Award for Favorite Experimental Film for her work entitled The End of Eating Everything. In 2015, Wangechi Mutu participated in the The 56th Venice Biennale's International Art Exhibition that bore the title "All The World's Futures", and was curated by Okwui Enwezor at the Giardini and the Arsenale venues. She also participated in other fairs such as the Dak'Art Biennial, the Kochi-Muziris Biennial, the Paris Triennial: Intense Proximity, the International Center of Photography's Triennial, and the Moscow Biennale.



To this date, her work has been displayed internationally in various arts institutions such as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Miami Art Museum, the Tate Modern in London, the Studio Museum in New York, the Museum Kunstpalast in Düsseldorf, and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. Her first solo show took place at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto in March 2010 and was followed three years later by another solo show, entitled Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey, at the Nasher Museum of Arts at Duke University. This exhibition also travelled to the Brooklyn Museum during the fall of that same year.