The Nigerian-born, Antwerp-based artist Otobong Nkanga has joined Lisson Gallery, leaving the roster of Mendes Wood for the London-headquartered commercial gallery in a move that she says is to focus on her creative growth. Nkanga has a solo exhibition at Lisson opening next year and will also show work at an upcoming group exhibition at the London gallery in May.
“I don’t know if it’s a question of change, or if it’s a question of growing with another team and with a gallery that I’ve always had a great admiration for,” Nkanga tells The Art Newspaper. “When I first met Nicholas Logsdail [Lisson’s founder] and Ossian Ward [the gallery’s content director] in Venice, the conversation was just so smooth. It felt like we’ve known each other for a long time.”
Nkanga is ranked 81st in Art Review’s Power 100 list for 2022, which cites her exhibition When Faith Moves Mountains, the first show to have taken place at the Pinchuk Art Centre in Kyiv after the Russian invasion, and the following exhibition Of Cords Curling around Mountains at Castello di Rivoli in Turin, as reasons for her inclusion.
Her multi-disciplinary practice includes performance, sculpture, film, textiles, painting, drawing and installation, and is based on ideas of colonial extractivism and how that manifests in the relationships between people, place, natural materials, society and the body.
“As a team we have long admired Otobong and her multifaceted practice and are excited to announce that we will be starting on this journey together,” says Lisson partner Louise Hayward. “Otobong’s important practice as an artist and thinker spans many media, genres and themes, allowing her to connect audiences to these vital works and ideas… She has broken so much ground already that we are honoured to continue in this vein and committed to helping her grow further.”
Speaking of her reasons for moving on, Nkanga cites the Lisson team’s understanding of her work and process. “Getting to know the gallery, I understood how committed the team are and I know they will take care of the work and that will also grow with me and listen to me. I think that aspect of listening, not only listening to the artist, but to what the work does and where it’s going is so important. I think Lisson is the gallery I need for my work.”
The group show Matter As Actor (3 May-24 June), organised by the Lisson partner and curatorial director Greg Hilty, will include tapestries and photographic works by Nkanga alongside her long-term performance and sculptural work Solid Manoeuvres (2015). The show, which addresses artists’ relationships with the materials they engage with, will present Nkanga’s work alongside those by Richard Long, Yelena Popova, Lucy Raven, Zhan Wang and Feifei Zhou
This will precede the multi-artist survey Dear Earth: Art and Hope in a Time of Crisis at London’s Hayward Gallery in June and a survey of the artist’s work at IVAM, Institut Valencià d’Art Modern in Spain, which opens in July.
While she has parted ways with Mendes Wood, which has locations in Brussels, São Paulo and New York, Nkanga is still represented by the Amsterdam gallery Lumen Travo and Galerie In Situ–Fabienne Leclerc in Paris.