Iké Udé, Genevieve Nnaji, 214-216

Iké Udé’s Nollywood Portraits exhibition to open at the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago.

An exhibition featuring portraits of Nollywood personalities by critically acclaimed Nigerian-American artist, Iké Udé titled Nollywood Portraits: A Radical Beauty, will be opening at the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago on October 20th, 2016. The artist, who has been recognized three times on Vanity Fair’s International Best Dressed List, is renowned for his portraiture that explores issues of representation, cultural, and stylistic identity.

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Artist Iké Udé

” Nollywood is the new face of Africa,” Udé said in a Kickstarter video produced by the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago where the portraits will be exhibited from October 20th this year. “Nollywood is the way I see myself as an African and the way we Africans see ourselves.”

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Born in Nigeria in 1964, Udé has lived in New York since the 1980s over which time he has earned a reputation of a master portraitist being compared with legendary artists such as Van Gogh, Rembrandt and Andy Warhol in an editorial. His work has exhibited and is in the permanent collection of renowned museums and galleries such as the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Smithsonian Museum of Art and he has created portraits of several international celebrities including actress Isabella Rosellini, designer Manolo Blahnik and singer Rihanna.

The School of Nollywood

In October 2014, after over two decades away, Iké Udé returned to Lagos, Nigeria and took photos of 64 Nollywood personalities, capturing an impressive cross section of the industry including screen icon, Genevieve Nnaji, established actor/director Stephanie Okereke Linus and maverick filmmaker, Kunle Afolayan as well as the next generation of rising stars.

The objective of this project is to celebrate these African celebrities in the timeless, classically elegant, style he has perfected.

Iké Udé, The School of Nollywood, 2014-2016
Iké Udé, The School of Nollywood, 2014-2016

The centerpiece of the body of work, The School of Nollywood (2014-2016), a grand group portrait of all 64 personalities was exhibited at the prestigious Arles Photo Festival in France and was displayed at the Toronto International Film Festival last month. At once a reference to and departure from Rafael’s famous fresco, The School of Athens (1509), the picture is the same size, an imposing 5 meters by 7.7 meters.

The Museum of Contemporary Photography will exhibit this picture along with a dozen select individual portraits from the body of work. A coffee table book will also be released by Milan-based publisher, Skira later this month.

Image credit: Iké Udé, Linda Ejiofor, 2014-2016
Image credit: Iké Udé, Linda Ejiofor, 2014-2016

“Our goal is to take these elegant portraits of Nollywood stars to the highest art and cultural institutions in the world, changing the narrative of how Africans are viewed,” said Osahon Akpata, who partnered with Udé as project manager over two years ago. “We have started that process and look forward to sharing these beautiful pictures across the globe.”

As the coming project, Ude is planning on releasing a feature length documentary, Nollywood in Focus next year. It will be an insider’s view to the challenges and potential of Nollywood.