Yesomi Umolu Takes Top Serpentine Galleries Post with Focus on Structural Change

Yesomi Umolu, the director and curator of Logan Center Exhibitions at the University of Chicago, has been named the inaugural director of curatorial affairs and public practice at the Serpentine Galleries in London. The newly formed see Umolu overseeing all curatorial, interpretation, and editorial operations at the museum.

Umolu, who has written and lectured on how art institutions can address issues of diversity, will be tasked with fostering a more inclusive audience experience at Serpentine. She will begin her tenure in 2021.

Serpentine CEO Bettina Korek and artistic director Hans Ulrich Obrist said in a statement, “Yesomi’s appointment reinforces a structural trajectory for the organization that fuses curatorial affairs and public practice. We are excited to work with her to innovate around centering audience experience and community engagement in all that we do.”

Umolu, a native Londoner, was the artistic director of last year’s Chicago Architecture Biennial, which explored through a lauded educational and community program the intersection of architecture, public space, and social change. She has held curatorial positions at the MSU Broad Museum, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and the eighth edition of the Manifesta biennial. A 2016 recipient of the prestigious Andy Warhol Foundation for Visual Arts Curatorial Fellowship, Umolu has published extensively on how to talk about—and fix—structural racism in museums. In June, she wrote an op-ed for Artnet News outlining 15 points for museums to internalize in the wake of the global George Floyd protests.

“Today’s imperative to attend to the most vulnerable and disenfranchised in society while dismantling white supremacy has unsurprisingly exposed the limited knowledge on these subjects among the public, private enterprises, and civic institutions—including museums,” she wrote, adding that “this not knowing—due to lack of information, misinformation, or willful ignorance—seems to underpin the carelessness with which we have thus far tackled systemic racism and structural injustices in our society.”

Umolu said in a statement that she is “eager to partner with the Serpentine’s team, its audiences and artists to envision new forms of creativity and community building that can shepherd us through the profound changes facing our city and the world at large.”

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