IMG_3129PORTER MAGAZINE, A NEW PRINT PUBLICATION produced by Net-a-Porter, the online luxury retailer, mostly covers fashion, but also devotes a fair amount of editorial to art and culture. Its summer edition features a brief interview with Julie Mehretu (above, right-hand page) about Africa’s emerging presence in the contemporary art world.

The Ethiopian-born, Michigan-reared, New York-based painter is queried about three issues: the significance of the new Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, which is scheduled to open in Cape Town in 2016; whether her heritage influences her work; and the Ethiopian film she is producing.
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Mehretu says a shift is afoot in the art world: “It is so exciting to imagine the potential of the [Zeitz] museum. Things are opening up for the art of Africa, in the continent and internationally.”

“This is a fascinating moment in time as the terms and notions of African art are reconsidered. As an artist I feel my work is being repositioned as the landscape broadens.
— Julie Mehretu, Porter Magazine

She confides that being Ethiopian and American are central to her identity, but she is not comfortable having her nationality or geography define her work.

“My journey as an artist has been about figuring out who I am and my place in the world; understanding my thoughts in relation to place and time. As an artist, what moves me is a desire to make sense of myself and the world at large,” Mehretu tells Porter.

As a part of that exploration, perhaps, the artist recently co-produced “Difret.” The harrowing story of a brave 14-year old Ethiopian girl and her tenacious lawyer, the film is directed by Zeresenay Berhane Mehari and co-produced by Angelina Jolie and artist Jessica Rankin, Mehretu’s partner. An Amharic-language feature, “Difret” premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the world cinema Audience Award.

“It is incredibly gratifying to see a talented Ethiopian director garner such success against many odds,” Mehretu says.

THE ARTIST KNOWS SOMETHING ABOUT SUCCESS. Her work is among the most expensive by a living woman artist. According to artnet, Mehretu’s “Mumbo Jumbo,” a large 2008 abstract painting sold last month at Art Basel through her gallery White Cube for $4.85 million, a record for the artist.

“Liminal Squared” was published last year to coincide with her exhibition at White Cube London, her first major show in the UK. In September, Mehretu’s work will be on view at the gallery’s Sao Paulo space.

“Continental Shift,” Porter Magazine, Issue 3, Summer Escape 2014, page 73.