The Artsy Vanguard 2020: Frida Orupabo

Harley Wong
Sep 11, 2020 8:00PM

Frida Orupabo

B. 1986, Sarpsborg, Norway. Lives and works in Oslo.

Frida Orupabo, Untitled, 2018. Photo by Carl Henrik Tillberg. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Nordenhake Berlin/ Stockholm/ Mexico City.


Norwegian-Nigerian artist and sociologist Frida Orupabo first exhibited her work in Arthur Jafa’s 2017 solo exhibition at London’s Serpentine Galleries, “A Series of Utterly Improbable, Yet Extraordinary Renditions.” Jafa invited Orupabo to exhibit her social media feed after encountering her Instagram of mostly found colonial and cultural images; he also encouraged her to create large-scale works from her digital archive. By March 2019, Orupabo’s paper collages earned the artist her first institutional exhibition in Norway, “Medicine for a Nightmare” at Oslo’s Kunstnernes Hus. There, she invited Jafa to show his film Love is the Message, the Message is Death (2016) alongside her work.

Held together by paper pins, Orupabo’s portraits of disembodied, anonymous Black women demonstrate the violent and violating legacy of colonialism. Her assemblages are left untitled, emphasizing the now-unknowable names and stories of her subjects, who were once deemed insignificant by dominant powers. Orupabo demonstrates the fragmented nature of history, but reassembles slices to imagine the peoples and narratives that have been erased.

Since reuniting with Jafa in “Medicine for a Nightmare,” Orupabo has exhibited in the 2019 Venice Biennale and opened a solo exhibition, “12 Self Portraits,” at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise’s Sant’Andrea de Scaphis space in Rome; she previously mounted a show at the gallery’s New York space in 2018. The artist has also had solo shows with Galerie Nordenhake, which represents her, in Berlin and Stockholm. She was recently shortlisted for the sixth edition of the Future Generation Art Prize, and will consequently exhibit her work at Pinchuk Art Centre in Kiev in 2021 and in Venice in 2022. Also in 2021, she will participate in the 34th São Paulo Bienal and open a solo show at Norway’s Kunsthall Trondheim.

The Artsy Vanguard 2020

The Artsy Vanguard 2020 is our annual list of the most promising artists shaping the future of contemporary art. This year, artists are organized into two categories: Newly Emerging, which presents artists who’ve gained momentum in the past year, showing at leading institutions and galleries; and Getting Their Due, which identifies artists who have persevered for decades, yet only recently received the spotlight they deserve. Now in its third edition, the feature was developed by the Artsy staff, in collaboration with our network of international curators and art professionals. Explore more of The Artsy Vanguard 2020.

Harley Wong

Header and thumbnail image, from left to right: Frida Orupabo, installation view of “12 self portraits” at Sant’Andrea de Scaphis, 2020. Photo by Roberto Apa. Courtesy of Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York and Rome; Frida Orupabo, “Untitled,” 2018. Photo by Carl Henrik Tillberg; Portrait of Frida Orupabo by Kyrre Skjelby Kristoffersen; Frida Orupabo, “Untitled,” 2018. Photo by Carl Henrik Tillberg. All images courtesy of the artist and Galerie Nordenhake Berlin/ Stockholm/ Mexico City.