African Art: Spotlight on Major Exhibitions, Part 2

African Art: Spotlight on Major Exhibitions, Part 2

Publié dans Art Market

In the 1990s, there were several exhibitions exploring the creativity of African artists during a period marked by the popularization of contemporary African art. Some of them pointed out the diversity of visions among African artists who have carved out singular creative spaces. While others raised critical issues about African representation compared to the West. You’ll find below the list of major African exhibitions that made an impact – whether positive, flawed or mixed during that decade.

In/Sight: African Photographers, 1940 to the Present (1996)

When it opened at the Guggenheim Museum in 1996, In/Sight was the first major exhibition in the United States to focus on the work of African photographers. Designed by Clare Bell of the Guggenheim Museum and independent curators Okwui Enwezor, Danielle Tilkin, and Octavio Zaya, the exhibition presented nearly 140 pictures of thirty African artists. The exhibition sought to give a chronological and historical consistency, rather than geographical, to the development of photography in Africa. The exhibition helped to give a completely different light on contemporary African art compared to previous exhibitions mainly focused on the creativity of African artists and sculptors.

In/Sight was organized by decades. First, it opens with portraits from the 1940s and 1950s during the dismantling of European colonies of the continent. Then, photographs taken during the 1960s and 1970s chronicled the development of new independent countries and the emergence of Africa in the modern world. Finally, the photographs of the 1980s and 1990s reflected on several themes of self-expression by focusing on the issues of race, sexuality, gender, and nationality.

in/sight catalog

Seven Stories about Modern Art in Africa (1995)

Seven Stories was held at the Whitechapel Gallery in London as part of the UK-based Africa 95 program of events, which highlighted contemporary African art and culture. The exhibition was prepared four years ago by anthropologist Clémentine Deliss. She made several field surveys in Africa and then worked out a series of seminars in London, where different actors came to debate the merits and shortcomings of recent exhibitions of contemporary African art, such as Magiciens de la Terre, Africa Explores or Africa Hoy.

Positioning itself as an alternative to these exhibitions, Seven Stories proposed an approach based on the complexity of the issues raised by contemporary African art and critical aspect of the interaction between artists, critics and curators. So Deliss ask five African artists and critics to write and represent seven stories on contemporary art from seven African countries: Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, and Uganda.

seven stories catalog

Otro País : Escalas Africanas [Another Country: African Stopovers] (1994)

Otro País was a traveling exhibition that opened in Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno in the Canary Islands in 1994 and remained in Spain a year later. It was co-curated by Simon Njami and Joëlle Busca, and featured twenty-four artists – half of African origin and half of Caribbean origin. Otro País reflects on the cultural and artistic interchange between Africa and the Caribbean with Europe acting as the focal point. Building on a dynamic relationship between the two cultures, the exhibition suggested that the connection was not only geographical but also conceptual. However, Otro País missed the opportunity to expand its scope by including other regions with cultural ties to Africa. The exhibition has rather chosen to focus on Caribbean and black African artists forgetting to mention white African artists.

otro pais catalog

Africa Hoy: Obras de la Contemporary African Art Collection [Africa Now] (1991)

Africa Hoy was an exhibition of African art from the collection of Jean Pigozzi and curated by André Magnin. The traveling exhibition that included works by 15 artists living in Africa began in the Canary Islands, and then went to the Netherlands and Mexico. The following year, the exhibition was modified and presented at Saatchi Gallery in London under the title Out of Africa. Africa Hoy was presented as an overview of African artistic creation, and not as a thematic exhibition or thesis. But the exhibition has been widely criticized for its primitive representation that suggests that contemporary African artists are completely disconnected compared to Westerners.

africa hoy catalog

Africa Explores: 20th Century African Art (1991)

Africa Explores was the last of a series of exhibitions at the Museum for African Art of New York City since its inception in 1984 by Susan Vogel, its founder and director. In response to the approach adopted by the exhibition Magiciens de la Terre, Africa Explores followed a more anthropological methodology to represent African art in its context and in all its diversity. The exhibition was organized around five distinctive categories: Traditional, New Functional, Urban, International and Extinct. However, this categorizing approach was considered by many critics, rigid, artificial or referring to an outdated representation of Africa.

africa explores catalog


Sources: Contemporary African Art Since 1980, Okwui Enwezor and Chika Okeke-Agulu, Damiani, 2009


Publié dans Art Market  |  janvier 24, 2015