Category Archives: Exhibtions

“Picasso Primitif” at the Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac (Paris, 28 March – 23 July 2017)

Timed with the preview of our April sale (info), next Tuesday sees the opening of the highly anticipated exhibition Picasso Primitif at the Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac in Paris. Organized in collaboration with the Musée National Picasso and curated by Yves Le Fur, Picasso Primtif aims to explore the links between the omnipresent artist and the non-Western arts. This exhibition aims to decipher this relationship born of admiration, respect and fear. On the museum’s website we read:

“Negro art? Don’t know it.” It was with this provocative tone that the Andalusian painter, sculptor and graphic artist made a point of denying his relationship with non-European art. However, and as his personal collection demonstrates, the arts of Africa, Oceania, the Americas and Asia never ceased to accompany him in all his various studios. The documents, letters, objects and photographs brought together in the first part of the exhibition and displayed chronologically, are evidence of this, demonstrating Picasso’s interests and curiosity about non-Western creation.

In a second, more conceptual section, Primitive Picasso offers a comparative view of the artist’s works with those of non-Western artists, and leans more towards an anthropology of art than an analysis of aesthetic relationships. The resulting confrontation reveals the similar issues those artists have had to address (nudity, sexuality, impulses and loss) through parallel plastic solutions (deforming or deconstructing bodies, for example). Primitive art, therefore, is no longer considered to be a stage of non-development, but rather an access to the deepest, most fundamental layers of the human being.

It was about time somebody organized this exhibition; fingers crossed it exceeds the expectations. I must admit I was quite surprised by the show’s title, as the word ‘Primitive’ in general is widely frowned upon by the scholarly community when talking about non-Western art, but I guess it sounded catchy as a title.

Javier Peres announced as honorary president of Parcours des Mondes 2017

Parcours des Mondes recently announced this year’s honorary president: Javier Peres, a young contemporary art dealer and the founder of the cutting-edge gallery Peres Projects. Peres has been enthusiastically been collecting African art for more than 10 years, you can download an interview with him published in the Spring 2016 issue of Tribal Art Magazine here. In 2016, he published ‘Wild Style – Group Spirit’ (for sale here), the catalogue documenting the two group shows he organized exhibiting African art from his collection alongside contemporary art from his gallery. I’ve seen many unsuccessful attempts of mixing the two, but this contemporary art dealer, with a deep passion and engagement with both fields, gets it right.

This year’s edition of Parcours (the 16th already) will run from 12 to 17 September 2017. Peres Projects will also be exhibiting a small selection of African Art during the contemporary art fair Independent Brussels from 20 to 23 April in Brussels. Several works of Peres’ collection will also be included during the exhibition “Pascali Sciamano” at the Fondazione Carriero, which runs from 24 March to 24 June in Milan, Italy (info). Just to say that Peres indeed will be the perfect ambassador for this year’s edition of Parcours des Mondes. Below some images of his exhibition ‘Wild Style’ (more here).

‘Wild Style’ as well included a performance by the boundary-breaking artist Donna Huanca, who recently also had a highly-acclaimed exhibition at the Zabludowicz Collection in London. Below some pictures; the dialogue between contemporary and African art has never been so intense.

“Masterpieces From Africa” at the Dapper Museum prolonged until 2017

musee-dapper-masterpieces-leveau-extended-paris-african-art

 

Good news reached us from from the Musée Dapper in Paris. Their current exhibition, Masterpieces From Africa (and that’s just what it is!) is being extended until June 17, 2017. This tribute to the museum’s founder, Michel Leveau (who passed away in 2012), shows 130 exceptional objects from its holdings. It’s a must see – who knows when these objects will be on view again..

What’s unique, is that now both the famous Bangwa queen and king figures are on view in Paris at the same time, although at different museums (respectively the Musée Dapper and the Musée du quai Branly) – Paris truly is the capital of African art these days. To get a teaser of the Dapper exhibition show, see the Youtube clip below (in French, and including an interview with Christiane Falgarayettes-Leveau, the museums’ director and curator of the exhibition).

 

Upcoming exhibitions at the Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac (Paris)

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The Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac surely is celebrating its tenth birthday properly. The end of this month sees the opening of two now exciting exhibitions. The first, “Eclectic“, from 23 November 2016 until 2 April 2017 and curated by Hélène Joubert, will show around forty key works, mostly African, from the private collection of Marc Ladreit de Lacharrière. He’s the 23rd richest man of France (source) so you can expect some stunning works for sure. Opening at the same time is “From the Jordan River to the Congo River. Art And Christianity in Central Africa” (info), curated by Julien Volper and showing about one hundred African works of Christian inspiration (crucifixes, sculptures, pendants, engravings and drawings) drawn from various private and public collections in Europe. This type of objects always gives me mixed feelings, as it were these same Christians that were responsible for the destruction of so many African cultures, but the syncretic objects that survived surely are interesting.

Perhaps the most anticipated upcoming exhibition at the Musée du quai Branly is Picasso PrimitifCurated by Yves Le Fur, a first segment of the exhibition will chronologically document Picasso’s interest in non-Western art, while a second part will be more conceptual and confront works of the artist with those of non-Western artists (as was done during Primitivism in 20th Century Art). Hopefully the exhibition will draw as much new attention to African art as the latter once did. It was about time someone organized an exhibition on this subject. However, personally, I do regret the use of the word ‘Primitif’ in the exhibition’s title; I thought we had moved past the use of the P-word by now. Picasso Primitif runs from 28 March until 23 July 2017 and will be followed by what surely will be an epic exhibition on the art of the Fang. I don’t see many other museums with such an impressive agenda, so kudos to the Musée du quai Branly !

ps I once mentioned that Fang figure on the exhibition’s poster on my blog, see Investing in African art and ‘the rule of 72’.

ps2 Picasso’s nimba figure is currently on view in Brussels at the Bozar where it presented with a huge Female head by the master in an exhibition on his sculpture.

MoMa’s “Primitivism in 20th Century Art” installation shots available online (William Rubin, 1984)

Image courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Image courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

If you liked last weeks installation shots of African Negro Art at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 1935 (here), you’ll love these pictures of Primitivism in 20th Century Art held at the same museum in 1984. I was still a baby at the time, but going through these pictures I can understand it had such a big impact and would come to instigate a new generation of collectors. If you think of it, it is fascinating that two of the most influential African art exhibitions of the twentieth century were organized by a museum of modern art.

The good folks at the MoMa even made the (Chinese version of the) exhibition catalogue freely available online here (long download) – kudos to them!

ps anecdote of the day: after New York, the show would travel to the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Dallas Museum of Art – a tour that was sponsored by Philip Morris Incorporated. I wonder if cigarette companies still get to sponsor museum shows these days.

Image courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Image courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Image courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Image courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Image courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Image courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

MoMa’s “African Negro Art” archives online (1935)

Image courtesy of the Moma.

Image courtesy of the Moma.

In 1935 the groundbreaking “African Negro Art” exhibition was organized by New York’s Museum of Modern Art. It was one of the first exhibitions in the United States to display African sculptures as works of art, rather than as ethnographic objects. A reader just informed me MoMa has made their archives of this show available online – you can find them here. Besides the integral version of the exhibition’s catalogue edited by James J. Sweeney, you can also browse the checklist of all 603 displayed objects here. The site as well includes several wonderful installation shot – most of these objects now are rightfully considered as icons of African art and collectors are prepared to pay a considerable premium to own a piece with such a historic provenance.

Image courtesy of the MoMA.

Image courtesy of the MoMA.

Theaster Gates’ Boli at the Fondazione Prada, Milan (2015)

Theaster Gates, "Boli, a Portion of the Team Lives in Heaven", 2014.

Theaster Gates, “Boli, a Portion of the Team Lives in Heaven”, 2014.

Last year, I wrote how Theaster Gates won the Artes Mundi 2014 prize (info) with a work incorporating a Bamana boli figure. For his current exhibition at the Fondazione Prada in Milan, Gates has again used the image of a Bamana boli figure in an installation. Boli, a Portion of the Team Lives in Heaven shows a group of Mumuye-like standing figure surrounding a magnificent boli figure on a large black pedestal – a very remarkable view. Gates first exhibition in Milan (info) runs until 25 September 2016. Let me know if you find out the meaning of this installation.

A reader reacts..

If you feel that any religion or belief system “works” just as well as any other, as long as its’ followers believe in it, then this installation illustrates that quite well. The artist could have made up a God and his followers, and for the average viewer the Boli and Mumuyes might seem to be just that, but for those of us in the African art world the tribal images add another layer to the art work while preserving the enigma for everyone due to the “otherness” of the objects.

 

Theaster Gates Boli Fondazione Prada é

“Masks of Central Africa” – a traveling exhibition in China

Masks of Central Africa Guandong

Great news from China. On April 29th 2016, a new exhibition about Congolese masks opened at the Guangdong Museum of Art in Canton. It is organized by Ethnic Art & Culture Ltd (Hong Kong) and curated by Marc Felix – who in the last decades has been doing a tremendous effort to stimulate and enlarge the appreciation of African art in China.

The show displays 120 Congolese masks from private collections, 15 with their complete costume, and 16 musical instruments that were used in masquerades (coming from Phoenix’s Musical instrument museum). Field photos from the RMCA Tervuren are displayed on the museum walls. You can see some installation shots here or here. The first weekend attracted 52,000 visitors, so it’s certainly a success story so far. The (free!) exhibition stays at the Guangdong Museum untill July 24th 2016 and will then travel:

  • August 2 till November 6, 2016 at the Nanjing Museum,
  • November 25 2016 till March 5, 2017 at the Gansu Provincial Museum,
  • March 24 till June 26 2017 at the Yunnan Provincial Museum,
  • July 7 till September 10 2017 at the Henan Museum.

There will be 2 catalogues of 352 pages in A4+ format, one in Chinese and one in English/French, containing 800 pictures. Twelve authors wrote essays for the catalogue: Viviane Baeke, David Binkley, Arthur Bourgeois, Kellim Brown, Rik Ceyssens, Pol-Pierre Gossiaux, Marc Leo Felix, Manuel Jordan, Constantine Petridis, Z. S. Strother, Julien Volper, and Pan Yanqin. The English/French edition of the catalogue will be for sale at Congo Gallery in Brussels during BRUNEAF.

Masks of Central Africa Marc Felix

Marc Felix was kind enough to send me some pictures from the installation in Guangdong.

Note that the local curator unfortunately took a bit of liberty with the exhibition's title.

Note that the local curator unfortunately took a bit of liberty with the exhibition’s title by adding a new main title.

Masks of Central Africa China Marc Felix exhibition 2

Masks of Central Africa China Marc Felix exhibition 3

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Masks of Central Africa China Marc Felix exhibition 5

Masks of Central Africa China Marc Felix exhibition 6

Masks of Central Africa China Marc Felix exhibition 7

Masks of Central Africa China Marc Felix exhibition 8

Fétiche @ Venus over Manhattan, New York (until April 16, 2016)

FÉTICHE Venus Adam Lindemann Lega figure MOMA African art

 

A must-see if you are in New York before April 16 is “Fétiche” at Adam Lindemann’s gallery Venus Over Manhattan. This exhibition presents a mix of post-war and contemporary Western art with African and Oceanic art. The press release says:

The modern and contemporary works included in the show have no overt spiritual or mystical purpose. Though not religious in a traditional sense, there is significant financial and metaphysical value placed on contemporary art, and its ownership grants power via social status and prestige. The various motivations to possess art are seldom explored, though the entire art market relies upon a system of beliefs that highlights issues of relevancy, timeliness, and critical consensus. Fétiche explores the ways in which contemporary and indigenous works bestow authority and power within significantly different social structures.

You can find more info about the exhibition here (including images of the African and Oceanic art on display).

Fétiche also includes paintings by Alexander Calder juxtaposed with African masks owned by the artist, which are on loan from the Alexander Calder Foundation.

Image courtesy of Venus over Manhattan.

Image courtesy of Venus over Manhattan.

The below juxtaposition of Richard Prince’s ‘It’s all over‘ with two big tree-fern statues from Vanuatu is definitely spot-on. We can only applaud such a wonderful juxtaposition of high level Western art together with great examples of African and Oceanic art.

Image courtesy of Venus over Manhattan.

Image courtesy of Venus over Manhattan.

 

ps the iconic Lega figure on the poster, once in the Stoclet Collection, was already exhibited in New York once before. 81 years ago, in 1935, it was shown during African Negro Art at the Museum of Modern Art.

Fraught signifiers in African art: “Kota”

Detail of a Sango reliquary figure. Africarium Collection. Image courtesy of Sotheby's.

Detail of a Sango reliquary figure from Gabon. Africarium Collection. Image courtesy of Sotheby’s.

In the exhibition catalogue for his exhibition at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation, Kota – Digital Excavations in African Art, Frédéric Cloth makes an interesting comment on the usage of the attribution ‘Kota’ for the well-known reliquary guardians covered with metal from Gabon. He writes:

The word ‘Kota’ refers to a small ethnic group living in northeastern Gabon (estimated between 14,000 and 40,000 peoples by the mid-twentieth century), but one might be surprised to learn that there are no works in this exhibition created by the Kota people themselves.

Yes, you read that right. The Kota did not make any reliquary figures ! Cloth continues:

The reason for this is the result of a complex history. When, in the nineteenth century, Europeans started to explore eastern Gabon along the course of the Ogooué River, one of the first people they met were the Kota. Only later, the European explorers encountered the peoples who produced the art we refer to as ‘Kota’; groups such as the Shamaye, Sango, Obamba, Wumbu, and Ndassa. Oversimplification over time led Westerners unfortunately to refer to all reliquary guardians from this region as ‘Kota’.

This imprecise nomenclature now is so embedded that even Cloth remained obliged to use it for the title of his exhibition. Such fraught signifiers unfortunately tend to be hard to eradicate. Other examples previously mentioned on my blog are the so-called ‘Boa’ (info) and ‘Kulango’ spoons (info) – notwithstanding recent scholarship proved them incorrect, both designations are still widely used.

Field-photo published in: Chauvet (Stephen), "l'Art Funéraire au Gabon", Paris: Maloine, 1933: p. 2, #3.

Field-photo published in: Chauvet (Stephen), “l’Art Funéraire au Gabon”, Paris: Maloine, 1933: p. 2, #3.