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Trend in sight

African contemporary art on the move

Contemporary Art | The spread of exhibitions dedicated to African contemporary art is confirmed by their increasing popularity in the West. From the momentum manifested by the Venice Biennale to private foundation investment, this enthusiasm sheds light on the reappearance of a successful strategy now being courted by all middle market players.

Exposition Beauté Congo at Fondation Cartier © Fondation Cartier
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Exposition Beauté Congo at Fondation Cartier
© Fondation Cartier

Africa may have been present at the Venice Biennale since the 1920’s, but today that presence is taking on a new scale, with, for the first time, a Nigerian curator (Okwui Enwezor) heading the exhibition and more than 35 African artists out of 136 total. A veritable European launching pad, the Venice Biennale has its emulators, spreading African contemporary art to all structural typologies, including museums. André Magnin bears witness to this trend, in the late 1980’s he was one of the curators behind the exhibition Magiciens de la terre (1989) at the Centre Pompidou before turning to constituting private collections specializing in this area, including Jean Pigozzi’s. Recently, Magnin made waves at the young London fair 1 : 54 - whose sponsors include Christie’s - and for selecting the works for the sale African Stories at Piasa in October 2014. Parallel to the sale, the Orisha Prize for contemporary African art was born, whose goal is to « highlight the most emblematic works and movements in the sub-Saharan scene ». Timothée Chaillou founded the prize, and in December 2015 he also participated in the artistic direction of AKAA (Also Known As Africa), the first fair of contemporary art and design centred on Africa in France. The growth of fairs specializing in contemporary African art is enforced by private foundations who are distinguishing themselves with major exhibitions in 2015 : the Fondation Blachère with Visibles/Invisibles (March-September) on urban and fringe Africa, the Fondation Cartier with Beauté Congo (July-November) under the curatorship of André Magnin and Sweden’s Wanås Foundation with Barriers (May-November). The proliferation of these catalysts showcases a dual interest at once local and global : the Fondation Zinsou for instance, supported by Benin’s prime minister and Piasa shareholder, supports Western collectors during the acquisition process. This economic factor also played a role in the Tate’s 2013 acquisition of a Meshac Gaba installation series, Museum of Contemporary African Art, financed by the Nigerian bank GTBank. While some African artists’ works join European and American institutional collections such as the Centre Pompidou and MoMA, others remain unaffected by this trend, so necessary in establishing a durable existence throughout the intra-African market.

Maxime Gasnier
Publié le 28/07/2015
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Version française

Exposition Beauté Congo at Fondation Cartier © Fondation Cartier Exposition Visibles Invisibles à la Fondation Blachère © Crédit photo Odile Pascal Foire 1:54 at Pioneer Works NY 2015 © Pioneer Works NY 2015

Exposition Beauté Congo at Fondation Cartier
© Fondation Cartier

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