2023 Leo Award: Uzodinma Iweala and The Africa Center

Thursday, June 22, 2023
2023 Leo Award: Uzodinma Iweala and The Africa Center

Uzodinma Iweala and the team at The Africa Center will be presented with the Leo Award at ICI's upcoming Fall Benefit and Auction, taking place on Thursday, October 26, 2023. As the leading arts organization committed to advancing curators in contemporary art, ICI presents its Leo Award (named after the legendary art dealer and early ICI supporter Leo Castelli) in recognition of those who have shown extraordinary support to curators and artists and created new infrastructures that serve a broader art world.

Under Iweala’s leadership, The Africa Centre has established itself as a New York City institution that is transforming the world’s understanding of Africa and its Diaspora as well as the role played by people of African descent globally. Iweala and his team have been instrumental in fostering dialogue, breaking down barriers, and amplifying diverse voices from the African continent. They have transformed The Africa Center into a vibrant celebration of the richness and dynamism of African cultures, and created a new civic model for cultural institutions. Their programming promotes cross-cultural understanding and collaboration, and has included perspectives from the political, economic, literary, and culinary worlds as well as the artistic field.

Since taking on the role of CEO in 2018, Iweala has worked with his team to establish a home for African art, creating a space that didn’t previously exist in New York. The Center has produced several public art installations on the plaza of their Harlem building—including the Black Lives Matter tribute on Museum Mile from 2020 to 2023—acting as a focal point for communities to come together through art. In 2022, The Africa Center presented the ICI exhibition States of Becoming, which examines the dynamic forces of relocation, resettling, assimilation, and identity construction within the African Diaspora over the past thirty years. This historic presentation of 17 artists from 13 countries ushered in a new chapter for the Center, and demonstrated its mission to focus on community and meaningful exchange.

“All of us at ICI are delighted to honor Uzo and his team with ICI’s 2023 Leo Award,” said Renaud Proch, ICI’s Executive & Artistic Director. “They have been inspirational collaborators. We are grateful for our meaningful partnership with The Africa Center, which will continue to play an important part in shaping our programs for years to come. Uzo’s vision and the values manifested in the Center­—collaboration, empowerment, global solidarity, generative thinking—resonate in so many ways with ICI's own mission.”

"I am honored to accept this award on behalf of The Africa Center team. Nurturing and cultivating artistic and curatorial talents from Africa and its Diaspora has long been central to ICI’s mission and work,” Iweala said. "Having been the inaugural home for States of Becoming, The Africa Center takes immense pride in our partnership. We eagerly anticipate engaging and amplifying more creative voices from the African continent who are part of The Africa Center and ICI communities. Thank you to Renaud and the ICI team for bestowing us with this honor."

Since it was established in 1975, ICI has provided a unique support structure for contemporary art and for curators around the world, including over ten years of engagement across the African continent. Through programs such as the Curatorial Intensive, Curatorial Research Fellowships, and traveling exhibitions, ICI has forged networks for the sharing of knowledge between the U.S. and Africa, and both within the continent and among its Diaspora. These efforts were strengthened and amplified in 2021 through the Marian Goodman Gallery Initiative in honor of the late Okwui Enwezor. Over the next three years, ICI and The Africa Center will join forces and draw from their respective networks of curators, cultural producers, and thought leaders to produce an annual series of talks and programs highlighting some of the latest developments in African art.

 

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Anna Melnykova, "Palace of Labor (palats praci), architector I. Pretro, 1916", shot with analog Canon camera, 35 mm Fuji film in March 2022.

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