Julie Mehretu. Artistic License: Six Takes on the Guggenheim Collection exhibition on view March 1 – September 8, 2019

Born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, contemporary visual artist Julie Mehretu is world renowned for her large and energetic multi-layered paintings of abstracted landscapes. On February 25, 2023, Amref Health Africa will host their annual ArtBall event with adjoining art auction, where they will honor Mehretu with the Rees Visionary Award. Named after their late founder, surgeon, and artist Dr. Thomas Rees, the Rees Visionary Award is given to artists they feel are creating exceptional work that educates, inspires, and emboldens the viewer through these challenging times. Past honorees have included Wangechi Mutu, El Anatsui, Toyin Ojih Odutola, and Zanele Muholi. 

Mehretu’s iconic large-scale, gestural paintings are created through layers of acrylic paint on canvas overlaid with mark-making using pencil, pen, ink, and thick streams of paint. Whitecube described her paintings as “a tornado of visual incident where gridded cities become fluid and flattened, like many layers of urban graffiti.” Mehretu creates new narratives using abstracted images of cities, histories, wars and geographies with energetic marks. Mehretu’s work conveys the frenetic speed of modern cities and modern life.

Amref Health Africa, the largest African-based NGO in the world, reaches over 20 million people per year across 35 countries in Africa with healthcare programs. Amref Health Africa’s annual ArtBall event and adjoining Contemporary African, Pan-African, and Black Art auction, will benefit Kefeta, Amref’s unprecedented youth empowerment program in Ethiopia, in partnership with USAID, creating a connection between African culture and philanthropy to celebrate and highlight the talent of the African continent.

More about the Amref ArtBall and Auction: ArtBall features a Contemporary African, Pan-African, and Black art auction, entertainment, food, and beverages from award-winning Black-owned vendors, an installation, and an award ceremony, and has grown from just over 300 attendees to nearly 800, with an emphasis on the African diaspora. Notable hosts and guests have included Solange, Swizz Beatz, Alicia Keys, Chris Rock, Antwaun Sargent, Kimberly Drew, Hank Willis Thomas, Isolde Brielmaier, Shantell Martin, Nina Chanel Abney, Jack Shainman, Young Paris, and many more. The auction will consist of around 30 pieces of art from emerging and established artists. The ArtBall auction will run via Artsy: Feb 13-27, 2023. The proceeds of the auction will benefit Kefeta. Past auction artists have included Malick Sidibe, Amoako Boako, Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe, Awol Erizku, and more.