The Wick - Interview Art historian, curator and writer Aindrea Emelife The Wick - Interview Art historian, curator and writer Aindrea Emelife
Monday Muse

Interview Art historian, curator and writer Aindrea Emelife

Aindrea Emelife
17 March 2021
Aindrea Emelife
17 March 2021
This year, art historian, writer and independent curator Aindrea Emelife is joining other inspiring Londoners as a member of the Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm, curating two exhibitions and working on two upcoming books. We’re exhausted just writing it!

These are just the latest in a long line of achievements for 27-year-old Emelife, who debuted her first column for the Financial Times at 20 years old, has presented art films for the Royal Academy of Arts and The Hepworth Wakefield and launched her private art advisory, working with emerging artists and private collectors, in 2018.

Blending art and activism, she wants to be part of building a better world and creating something to influence generations to come, whether that’s moving people to joy and learning or amplifying voices and perspectives. We can’t wait to see what she does next.

THE WICK:   Who is your ultimate Monday Muse?

Aindrea Emelife:   Sarah Lewis, assistant professor of history of art and architecture, African and African American studies at Harvard University. She is a cultural powerhouse. Her ‘Vision & Justice’ project questions what the role of art and culture is for justice and this question is at the core of my current thinking.

TW:   How would you like to see the art world facilitate more conversations around diversity and inclusion?

AE:   Starting with education. There is a lot of (very just) conversation about approaching diversity in artist rosters and pertaining to what hangs on the walls. But I also want people to look at diversity in curators, academics and other art world professionals. It is crucial to ensuring a legacy for these artists.

TW:   Which project are you most excited about in the year ahead?

AE:   So many. I feel so incredibly lucky to have a number of projects I’ve been dreaming of beginning to actualise. I am excited to curate again and am working on two shows; ‘Citizens of Memory’ (title TBC) at The Perimeter, London, looking at how history, memory and nostalgia is an access point for the Black experience, and the other looks at the rise of the news, and the social issues of the last year with a very well-known artist at an exciting new cultural hub in the centre of London. I am also excited to start work as part of the Mayor of London’s Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm.

TW:   What’s the book you would pass on as a gift?

AE:   Can I choose two? Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric is a beautiful poetic meditation on modern American race relations (that quite easily adapts to UK nuances also). And for the sheer enjoyment of it, I recently re-read Simon Schama’s Power of Art and gosh, it is powerful, and moving and exciting. Its power makes me fall in love with it all over again in an entirely new way each time I read it.

“I am determined to make my work have a purpose, and so this is a through line in all my forthcoming projects: to move people into reflection, empathy, joy.”

TW:   Your piece for The Independent investigated how the art world can step up for Black Lives Matter. Tell us more about it and your plans for 2021.

AE:   Writing that piece was such a catharsis. And lucky it came at a time when people were more willing to listen. I am adapting the piece as part of one of my manifestos that will turn into a project with WeTransfer and am expanding it into a book that will be published next year. Writing, as well as curating, will be a big part of my 2021. I currently have two books planned to release next year: A Little History of Protest Art, published by Tate, and How Art Can Change The World: A Manifesto, published by Frances Lincoln. I am determined to make my work have a purpose, and so this is a through-line in all my forthcoming projects: to move people into reflection, empathy, joy… I want to be part of building a more beautiful world.

TW:   How do you think social media is transforming the art world?

AE:   It’s allowing people’s opinions to get the attention of the higher-ups. As a writer, I ponder whether articles or social media posts have the most impact. I think both do – but in different ways. Social media also has opened up transparency and access to artists that did not exist, and were partly discouraged, in the past.

TW:   What do you think the long-term impact of Covid-19 will be on the art world?

AE:   Adaptation to technology, empathy and putting life back into the art. Covid-19 has made me question the purpose of art and its legacy; I think this is a lot of the wider thinking also.

TW:   Who are some up-and-coming artists to watch?

AE:   I love work by Somaya Critchlow, Hugh Hayden, Tunji Adeniyi-Jones, Kudzanai-Violet Hwami, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Tabita Rezaire, Jennifer Packer, Benjamin Spiers, Rachel Jones, Dominique Fung and Hiba Schahbaz… I’m very excited about art at the moment.

TW:   If you could own any artwork in the world, what would you choose?

AE:   That’s so hard. I think I’d like to hang both Caravaggio’s and Artemisia Gentileschi’s ‘Judith Beheading Holofernes’ together. Intense, a bit terrifying and utterly moving. Riddled with symbolism. My two favourites. Maybe I could get my hands on Kehinde Wiley’s ‘Judith and Holofernes’ too. The scene, captured in three ways, would be quite something.

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