Designer Duro Olowu


A STANDARD BEARER for fashion, art, design, and style, Duro Olowu is inspired by a spectrum of individuals—cultural figures past and present, including the inimitable Grace Jones, musician and activist Fela Kuti, couturier Madame Grés (Alix Barton), and fashion designer Willi Smith.

Olowu’s “Top 10” list, published in the May/June 2020 edition of Artforum, also features artists David Hammons, Henri Matisse, Alma Thomas and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. A Nigerian-born, London-based fashion designer and curator, Olowu describes Thomas as “one of the greatest—and most woefully underrecognized—American Abstract Expressionists of the twentieth century.” He is also in awe of Hammons. Olowu considers Hammons to be “the most important artist of his generation.”

In 2014, a rare survey of Hammons, curated by the artist himself, was on view at White Cube Mason’s Yard in London. Olowu’s Mayfair boutique is steps away from the gallery and he says he frequented the exhibition. “I must have visited at least fifteen times. Each pilgrimage gave me more energy,” he writes in the magazine.

“I must have visited [Hammons’s exhibition] at least fifteen times. Each pilgrimage gave me more energy.” — Duro Olowu

Hammons, Matisse, Thomas, and Yiadom-Boakye and numerous other artists are featured in Olowu’s latest exhibition. He guest-curated “Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago” (Feb. 29-Sept 27, 2020) at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.

From “Black President: The Art and Legacy of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti” to the exhibition catalog for “Seeing Chicago,” the following booklist reflects Olowu’s Top 10 picks:


“Black President: The Art and Legacy of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti,” Edited by Trevor Schoonmaker, with contributions by Yomi Durotoye, Vivien Goldman, Olu Oguibe, Moyo Okediji and Michael E. Veal (New Museum of Contemporary Art, 192 pages). | Published Sept. 2, 2003

Black President: The Art and Legacy of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti

Exploring the life and legacy of the Nigerian musician and activist Fela Kuti, “Black President” (July 11-Oct. 19, 2003) was guest curated by Trevor Schoonmaker at the New Museum in New York. The traveling exhibition featured 34 artists “inspired by Fela’s artistic genius and dedication to justice and equality,” including Radcliffe Bailey, Sanford Biggers, Sokari Douglas Camp, Barkley L. Hendricks, Wangechi Mutu, Odili Donald Odita, Yinka Shonibare, Pascale Marthine Tayou, Kara Walker, and Fred Wilson.


“Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Under-Song for a Cipher,” Edited by Massimiliano Gioni and Natalie Bell, with contributions by Elena Filipovic, Chris Ofili, Robert Storr, and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye (New Museum/Kunsthalle Basel, 124 pages). | Published 2017

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Under-Song for a Cipher

This exhibition catalog accompanies “Lynette Yiadom-Boakye” (May 3-Sept. 3, 2017), the artist’s presentation of new work at the New Museum in New York. The fully illustrated volume includes an interview with the artist conducted by Natalie Bell and Massimiliano Gioni, with a reflection on Lynette Yiadom-Boakye‘s work by fellow British artist Chris Ofili.


“Lynette Yiadom-Boakye,” with contributions by Donatien Grau, Jennifer Higgie, and interview by Naomi Beckwith (Prestel, 136 pages). | Published Nov. 14, 2014

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye

A career-spanning survey of the artist, “Lynette Yiadom-Boakye” is fully illustrated. The volume includes a pair of essays, short stories by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye that shed light on her work, and an interview with the artist conducted by Naomi Beckwith.


“Lynette Yiadom-Boakye,” Contributions by Amira Gad, Hilton Als, Glenn Ligon, and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, with forewords by Julia Peyton-Jones and Hans Ulrich Obrist (Koenig Books, 136 pages). | Published February 23, 2016

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye

This illustrated volume is British artist Lynette Yiadom-Boakye‘s first monograph and includes text contributions by Hilton Als and Glenn Ligon, among others. She paints imagined figures that belie time and place. They are introspective and otherworldly. About her subjects, the artist has said: “They don’t share our concerns or anxieties. They are somewhere else altogether.”


“David Hammons: Give Me a Moment,” Contributions by Mark Godfrey, Skarlet Smatana, Ben Okri and Jannis Kounellis (George Economou Collection, 99 pages). | Published 2016

“David Hammons: Give Me a Moment”

Featuring lavish full-page illustrations, this exhibition catalog documents “David Hammons: Give Me a Moment” (Jun 13-Sept. 30, 2016) at the George Economou Collection in Athens, Greece. Works by David Hammons spanning 50 years were on view. Curated by Mark Godfrey and Skarlet Smatana, the exhibition was the artist’s first major show in Greece and first survey in Europe.


“David Hammons/Yves Klein Yves Klein/David Hammons,” Contributions by Klaus Ottmann, Franklin Sirmans, Philippe Vergne, Michelle Piranio Yves Klein, with a foreword by Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson (Aspen Art Press, 298 pages). | Published Oct. 31, 2014

“David Hammons/Yves Klein Yves Klein/David Hammons”

“David Hammons/Yves Klein Yves Klein/David Hammons” (Aug. 9-Nov. 30, 2014) was on view at the Aspen Art Museum, displaying works by David Hammons and Yves Klein side-by-side. This volume presents “a compelling examination of the surprising conceptual and visual correspondences between the works of these two pivotal artists known for their innovative practices.”


“L.A. Object & David Hammons Body Prints,”By Yael Lipschutz, Tobias Wofford, Kellie Jones, Dale Davis, Josine Ianco-Starrels, Steve Cannon, Connie Rogers Tilton, and Lindsay Charlwood (Tilton Gallery, 424 pages). | Published Sept. 30, 2011

L.A. Object & David Hammons Body Prints

“L.A. Object & David Hammons Body Prints” (June 30-July 28, 2007) explored the 1960s and 70s assemblage movement in Los Angeles. Works by Alonzo Davis, Dale Brockman Davis, Mel Edwards, Daniel La Rue Johnson, Ed Kienholz, Senga Nengudi, John Outterbridge, Noah Purifoy, Betye Saar, and Timothy Washington, among others, were presented along with an extensive selection of body prints by David Hammons. This lavishly illustrated exhibition catalog coincided with an exhibition shown at Tilton Gallery in New York and Roberts & Tilton in Los Angeles (now Roberts Projects).


“David Hammons: Rousing the Rubble,” Contributions by Steve Cannon, Tom Finkelpearl, and Kellie Jones, with photographs by Dawoud Bey and Bruce Talamon, and introduction by Alanna Heiss (MIT Press, 96 pages). | Published Sept. 18, 1991

David Hammons: Rousing the Rubble

Tom Finkelpearl organized “David Hammons: Rousing the Rubble” (Dec. 16, 1990–Feb 10, 1991) at MoMA PS1. Providing a two-decade overview of David Hammons‘s work spanning mediums and methods. The exhibition catalog features more than 100 images, a rap poem by Steve Cannon and essays by Finkelpearl and Kellie Jones.

“Hammons places himself as an artist between Arte Povera and Marcel Duchamp. He makes his art from refuse and the detritus of African-American life: chicken wings, Thunderbird and Night Train bottles, clippings from dreadlocks, basketball hoops. Hammons’s deeply felt political views on race and cultural stereotypes give his witty and elegant sculptures, installations, and body prints an integrity that promises to keep the focus on his art rather than on his career.”

“Alma Thomas: Resurrection,” With essay by Erin Jenoa Gilbert (Mnuchin Gallery, 152 pages). | Published 2019

Alma Thomas: Resurrection

Documenting “Alma Thomas: Resurretion” (Sept. 10-Oct. 19, 2019), the recent exhibition presented at Mnuchin Gallery in New York, this fully illustrated volume includes an essay by Erin Jenoa Gilbert and a chronology of the the artist’s life and career. Curated by Sukanya Rajaratnam, the show featured Alma Thomas paintings drawn from public and private collections, dating from 1959 and 1976.


“Alma Thomas,” Co-edited by Ian Berry and Lauren Haynes, With contributions by Bridget R. Cooks, Thelma Golden, Nikki A. Greene, Leslie Hewitt, Jennie C. Jones, Leslie Wayne, Saya Woolfalk (Prestel, 256 pages). | Published Dec. 22, 2016

Alma Thomas

Curated by Ian Berry and Lauren Haynes, “Alma Thomas” (2016) was co-organized by the Tang Teaching Museum at Skidmore College and the Studio Museum in Harlem. The show presented large-scale paintings by Alma Thomas focused on four themes: Move to Abstraction, Earth, Space, and Mosaics. A generous selection of smaller works, watercolors and drawings from the collection of the Columbus Museum in Georgia, the artist’s hometown museum, was also showcased. An expansive volume, this catalog illustrates works represented in the survey, along with many additional works by Thomas, most published for the first time.


“Duro Olowu: Seeing,” Contributions by Naomi Beckwith, Valerie Steele, Ekow Eshun, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Thelma Golden, and Duro Olowu, with director’s foreword by Madeleine Grynsztejn (Prestel, 416 pages). | Published March 2, 2020

Duro Olowu: Seeing

The recently published exhibition catalog is small in format but thick with fully illustrated pages. MCA Chicago curator Naomi Beckwith, along with Valerie Steele, Ekow Eshun, and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye contribute texts and there is also a conversation between Duro Olowu and his wife, Thelma Golden, director and chief curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem. CT


TOP IMAGE: Screenshot from “Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago” exhibition video by MCA Chicago


“Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago” is on view at MCA Chicago, Feb. 29-Sept 27, 2020. MCA Chicago is temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 virus. Check directly with the museum for updated scheduling.


“Making & Unmaking” documents Duro Olowu’s exhibition at Camden Arts Centre in London. In her ironically titled autobiography, “Grace Jones: I’ll Never Write My Memoirs,” legendary singer, model, and actress Grace Jones takes account of her spectacular career, turbulent life, and extreme style.


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