Art People

Wangechi Mutu Stages a Family Reunion


As Wangechi Mutu Zooms with me from her sunset-lit Nairobi studio, her team in New York, where it’s still morning, is at work preparing for the Kenyan-American artist’s upcoming show at the New Museum. One aide makes wrinkles in Mutu’s sculptural fabrics; another gouges gallery walls with what the artist calls “wall wounds.” In a matter of days, she will join these friends, some of whom have come back to work with her after 20 years, for a gathering she describes as a family reunion. (“I’m super psyched!” she says, and tells me she has pictures from decades ago to show how they’ve all aged.) The family reunion metaphor might also apply to her works themselves—as we speak, Mutu’s paintings, collages, videos, and sculptures are traveling from across the world to convene in the museum in advance of the show’s Mar. 2 opening, and make themselves at home. Mutu’s bronze fountain sculpture of two tree-like voyagers, In Two Canoe, 2022, will greet visitors in the lobby; her bronze female-reptile fusion, Crocodylus, 2020—transported like a queen by eight men who hung the sculpture from a rig to fit it into the elevator—will occupy 13 feet of floor space in an upstairs gallery.

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