Julie Mehretu

Mar 25–Aug 8, 2021

For more than two decades, Julie Mehretu (b. 1970, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia) has been engaged in a deep exploration of painting. She creates new forms and finds unexpected resonances by drawing from the histories of art and human civilization—from Babylonian stelae to architectural sketches, from European history painting to the sites and symbols of African liberation movements. Some of Mehretu’s imagery and titles hint at their representational origins, but her work remains steadfastly abstract.

Comprising approximately thirty paintings and forty works on paper dating from 1996 to the present day, this mid-career survey of Julie Mehretu presents the most comprehensive overview of her practice to date. She plays with the parameters of abstraction, architecture, landscape, scale, and, most recently, figuration. At its core, Mehretu’s art is invested in our lived experiences, and examines how forces such as migration, capitalism, and climate change impact human populations—and possibilities.

Julie Mehretu is organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The exhibition is curated by Christine Y. Kim, curator of contemporary art at LACMA, with Rujeko Hockley, Arnhold Associate Curator at the Whitney.

Generous support is provided by the Ford Foundation and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

In New York, the exhibition is sponsored by

Generous support is provided by Judy Hart Angelo; the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation; the Ellsworth Kelly Foundation and Jack Shear; Kevin and Rosemary McNeely, Manitou Fund; The Philip and Janice Levin Foundation; and the Whitney’s National Committee.

Major support is provided by Lise and Michael Evans, Agnes Gund, Sueyun and Gene Locks, Susan and Larry Marx, and Sami and Hala Mnaymneh.

Significant support is provided by Sarah Arison, Abigail and Joseph Baratta, Fotene and Tom Coté, Krystyna Doerfler, the Evelyn Toll Family Foundation, Andrew and Barbara Gundlach, Mellody Hobson, the Juliet Lea Hillman Simonds Foundation, the Kapadia Equity Fund, Jill and Peter Kraus, Ashley Leeds and Christopher Harland, Suzanne McFayden, Katie and Amnon Rodan, and Sotheby’s.

Additional support is provided by The Cowles Charitable Trust; Jeffrey Deitch; Rebecca and Martin Eisenberg; Christy and Bill Gautreaux; Miyoung Lee and Neil Simpkins; the Robert Lehman Foundation, Inc.; Laura Rapp and Jay Smith; Barbara Shuster; and Rosina Lee Yue. 

New York magazine is the exclusive media sponsor. 


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Audio guides

Hear directly from the artist and curator on selected works from the exhibition.

View guide

Exhibition Catalogue

This sumptuous catalogue by Christine Y. Kim and Rujeko Hockley, accompanies a major mid-career survey of Mehretu’s work that opened at the Whitney Museum in March 2021. Designed to allow close viewing of Mehretu’s vast canvases, it features lush reproductions of her paintings in their entirety, as well as numerous full-page details. Accompanying rich images of work from throughout her career are numerous essays by leading curators, scholars, and writers. Long overdue, this magnificent volume pays tribute to an artist whose work and process intermingle in a unique and important examination of painting, history, geopolitics, and displacement.

The book is dedicated to the pioneering Nigerian curator Okwui Enwezor, who died before he could complete his contribution, but whose global engagement animates many of its other essays.

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Explore works from this exhibition
in the Whitney's collection

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In the News

"[O]ne of the most significant painters of her generation" —Galerie

"Julie Mehretu Makes Art Big Enough to Get Lost In"—The Wall Street Journal

"Mehretu blends abstraction and representation in open response to current events"—The Paris Review

"[Mehretu's] art is ultimately in conversation with vulnerable people confronting power around the globe"—Essence

"With a robust online counterpart, this mid-career survey will let you get in close and savor the details that might otherwise be lost."—Elle Decor

"Spanning the past 25 years of her work, the Whitney exhibition is an eye-opener."—W Magazine

“Can you be both an agent of change and art-world royalty? This artist’s reign on the Whitney Museum’s fifth floor shows it’s possible.”New York Times

“This exhibition will take viewers through a mindful journey of how realities of the past and present can shape human consciousness.”—Hypebeast

“Mehretu has packed, unpacked, and metamorphosed more ideas and innovations, more magically, than any artist in many years”Slate

“It is infinitely gratifying..."Juxtapoz

"[H]er canvases are marked by a tremulous psychodrama that beckons viewers to spend long, intimate moments relishing in their many layers."—Surface

"Julie Mehretu’s monumental works and her idiosyncratic vocabulary of forms have brought to the fore themes of borders, survival, climate change, and capitalism."—Artforum

"Mehretu challenges the histories of art, architecture, and past civilizations, as well as current themes of migration, revolution, climate change, and global capitalism."—Forbes

"Mehretu’s pieces are arresting, stopping you and drawing you in. The paintings are both monumental and explosive, with shimmering surfaces that suggest three-dimensional depth."—The Washington Post