Category Archives: Exhibtions

Last days to visit the ‘Les Forêts Natales’ exhibition at the Musée du quai Branly (closing Sunday 21 January)

Tempus fugit! It’s already the last week of the Les Forêts Natales exhibition at the Musée du quai Branly-Jacques Chirac (info and pictures here). If you haven’t had the chance to see this must-see show, please don’t sleep and go visit it. I would suggest to reserve at least 3 hours for it, as you’ll need them. It truly is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see that much iconic masterpieces of Gabon in one single museum. I don’t think any other curator will ever dare to envision such a comprehensive selection – it did take Yves Le Fur more than 3 years to prepare it. With the closing of the Dapper Museum, he of course had the unique chance to lend about 25 of their top objects, but also the holdings of the MqB itself, the Barbier-Mueller Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and numerous private collectors proved indispensable for the success of this exhibition. The catalogue, which unfortunately is only available in French, is also recommended but does not prepare you for the real-life experience. Furthermore, not all exhibited works are included in it. Personally, I saw the show three times, and still I don’t have the feeling I have seen enough of it. Several sections of it (Fang, Kwele, Kota, Tsogho) easily could have been standalone exhibitions and still would be incomparable. I will never forget that wall of Kotas (more than 100 in total!) – see above.

Kuddos as well to the Friends of the Musée du quai Branly for their innovative thinking to include the source communities of this exhibition by organizing several ‘web tours’ (info). Several Mondays (when the museum was closed), they organized live broadcasted guided tours which could be followed in several places in both Gabon and Cameroon:

• Fondation Gacha à Bangoulap au Cameroun
• Musée des civilisations de Dschang au Cameroun
• Musée National de Yaoundé au Cameroun
• Galerie Doual’art à Douala au Cameroun
• Galerie MAM à Douala au Cameroun
• Institut Français de Yaoundé au Cameroun
• Institut français de Douala au Cameroun
• Institut Français de Libreville au Gabon
• Etablissement scolaire Le Ruban Vert à Libreville au Gabon
• Lycée français Victor Hugo à Port-Gentil au Gabon

A wonderful initiative, and a first I think. The Gabonese president, Ali Bongo Ondimba, also visited the expo – as can be seen below. He was rightfully very proud.

10 Reasons to come to Brussels in January

In two weeks time Brussels will again be the epicenter of the African art circus, with BRAFA and the winter edition of Bruneaf taking place at more or less the same time. Didier Claes (president of Bruneaf and vice-chairman of Brafa), just send out the above (full version here), which I thought was not a bad idea – as a paucity of public relations has been hampering both events in the past. After a short hiatus, Claes is president again of Bruneaf and it’s up to him now to bring the organization into the 21th century. An anticlimax had been last summer’s exhibition Finalité sans Fin, which brought together a fantastic group of iconic masterpieces, accompanied by an excellent catalogue – but which did barely get any promotion and was therefor not really noticed outside the regular crowd. A shame, as a lot of effort had gone into it – but not in promoting it. However, this sad episode served as a wake-up call and now Bruneaf is even on Instagram. It’s my sincere hope this historical event can continue successfully and learns from previous mistakes.

The strengthened presence of African and Oceanic Art at the Brussels Art Fair (BRAFA), shown by 12 (!) dealers, certainly has heightened the effort put into the winter edition of Bruneaf (which originally used to be the less exciting brother of the summer edition, now branded Cultures, confusing isn’t it). While the non-European presence used to be very small, BRAFA truly has become a not to be missed event in our field. Participating galleries are: Didier Claes, Dartevelle, Yann Ferrandin, Jacques Germain, Bernard de Grunne, Grusenmyer-Woliner, Monbrison, Ratton (both father and son!), Guilhem Montagut (for the first time!), Serge Schoffel, and Galerie Schoffel de Fabry – all of them combined, that’s a lot of great art!

Talking about insufficient public relations, no. 3 in Claes’ list, the Oceania exhibition at the Cinquantenaire Museum in Brussels deserves a special mention, as it must be the least publicized exhibition of Oceanic art ever. A shame as it is, although not very big, a great introduction to the art of this region, and, extra points from a young father here, very kid friendly! Fingers crossed that the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren, reopening in June after years of renovation, is taking note and preparing a serious media campaign! Anyway, apologies for the rambling – as Didier Claes, I just wanted to invite you to Brussels this month, it’s worth the trip!

Exhibition tip: Beyond Compare – Art from Africa in the Bode Museum in Berlin

I wanted to share some pictures of this unbelievable exhibition currently on view at Berlin’s Bode Museum. This beautiful museum, known for its outstanding collection of European sculpture, now temporarily houses 70 masterpieces from the Ethnologishes Museum (which closed last year) until they will relocate to the newly build Humboldt Forum (to open at the end of 2019).

The African works are placed in smart juxtapositions with the permanent collection creating fascinating dialogues across time, place and religions. Unexpected similarities and differences become apparent: Michel Erhart’s late Gothic Virgin of Mercy appears next to the famous Kongo power figure, which, like the Madonna, was also created to protect a community. Mythical heroes from central Africa take their place among late Gothic Christian figures and open up new perspectives on both collections. The show address major themes of human experience, such as power, death, beauty, memory, aesthetics, and identity. For each of them, the curators (Julien Chapuis, Jonathan Fine and Paola Ivanov) were able to find great object pairings.

Beyond Compare is just one spectacular view after the other. One room downstairs contains the majority of works, but the remainder is spread across the museum, so it is sometimes a bit of treasure hunt (which cleverly makes you explore the whole building). I must say it is one of the most beautiful exhibitions I have ever seen in our field. I’ve become somewhat tired of seeing African art juxtaposed with modern and contemporary Western art, making up links which are not necarilly there. This show merely endeavors to find common themes and for once it is not about who inspired who (although links between St. Sebastian, Madonna-and-child statues and Kongo figures are vaguely suggested).

The installation as well is top-notch; it is clear the Bode Museum has a lot of experience presenting three-dimensional wooden works of art, and many objects can be walked around. It was amazing, as well, to see the standing statue of the Buli Master all by itself, without a case. The Benin leopard in the big staircase is a view I will never forget and the Benin queen (famous from the front cover of Tom Phillips’ Art of a Continent) paired with a Donatello sculpture, as well in bronze, is just genius.

Another plus is the excellent selection, it truly gives you a new perspective of the scope and importance of the Ethnologisches Museum’s collection, showing many masterpieces that hadn’t been on view at the Dahlem for a very long time (the Hemba ancestor figure, for example). This ‘conversation of continents’ is a big success and I would highly recommend a visit. I dream of seeing the Louvre or the Metropolitan doing something like this one day.. but Berlin did it first!

Kuddos to the museum as well for publishing an English version of the catalogue (Musée du quai Branly, please take note!). You can out more about Beyond Compare on the Bode-Museum’s website here. I’ll just let my snapshots do the talking (click to magnify), as you’ll see Beyond Compare truly lives up to its title.

Update: a reader comments, the primitive art indeed pairs very well with the African art 🙂

Controversy around Damien Hirst’s golden (Ife) head on view in Venice

I don’t know if you have noticed, but the influence of traditional African art on contemporary artists has never been so big. When frequenting any contemporary art fair these days, chances are big one runs into some very explicit references, and more often just plain copies of African masks and statues.

This trend is not new of course. Kendall Geers, for example, already made ‘nail figures’ (citing Kongo nkondi statues) in the early 2000s. But also many younger artists are following this trend and finding inspiration in the historical art of the African continent. Damien Hirst, one of the best known ‘Young British Artist’ of the 1990s, could not resist to join in, and his current exhibition in Venice, Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable, features a copy in massive gold of an ancient Ife head from Nigeria.

The head (illustrated above and below) is presented with the label ‘Golden head (Female)’, that, without any reference to its inspiration, which has been causing a huge controversy. While all of the artworks in the exhibition imitate or are inspired by the arts from a wide range of cultures throughout history, Ife has proven to a somewhat more sensitive subjet and a major fuzz about this head has emerged. Even CNN has dedicated an article to it: Damien Hirst accused of copying African art at Venice Biennale. On social media, Hirst has been widely branded as a ‘thief’, and the head continues to generate a lot of critique in so far even a spokesperson of Hirst had to react clarifying Ife is in fact cited in the exhibition guide. But the damage was done.

Things got rolling when the Nigerian artist Victor Ehighale Ehihkamenor, currently exhibiting at the Nigerian pavilion at the Venice Biennale, openly criticized Hirst in articles in the New York Times and Huffington Post. It is interesting to note that none of the representatives of other cited cultures have reacted to the show. There are numerous copies of Egyptian and Greek statues, for example. But none of those cultures have almost all of their national heritage outside their country of course, which is the case with Nigeria’s old Ife Kingdom. To make it even more interesting, also in the general press the show has received a lot of negative critique; ARTnews calling it ‘undoubtedly one of the worst exhibitions of contemporary art staged in the past decade’ (here) or generating statements like that it ‘offers scale in lieu of ambition, and kitsch masquerading as high art’ (in The Telegraph).

For my part, I think it is too soon to judge Damien Hirst – let’s see in 50 years what remains of his work. And, the famous Salon des Refusés in mind, I do recall some other artists who were once rejected by the general public. Jeff Koons also just copied someone else’s work (read about that here). Anyway, if it made only a handful of new people genuinely interested in the ancient art of Nigeria, we can only be happy about the effect this head provoked.

“Imaginary Ancestors”, restaging a famous Fang exhibition from 1933 at Almine Rech Gallery in New York, May-June 2017

After Adam Lindemann (info) and Javier Peres (info), a third major contemporary art gallery is staging an African art show. Imaginary Ancestors is an exhibition organized and hosted by Almine Rech Gallery in New York with Bernard de Grunne as guest curator for the Arts of Africa. The press release reads:

Imaginary Ancestors is a group exhibition looking at Primitivism in modern and contemporary art, which comprises two parts: One room will be dedicated to works by André Derain and Max Pechstein together with a restaging of the exhibition Early African Heads and Statues from the Gabon Pahouin Tribes. That landmark show was originally realized by Paul Guillaume at the Durand- Ruel Gallery on 57th Street in New York, from February 15 to March 10, 1933. This exhibition was the first show to be devoted to a single African art style, with a large group of Fang sculptures presented on a table alongside Derain paintings made at the time. For Imaginary Ancestors, Bernard de Grunne sourced the majority of the sculptures included in the original exhibition, which will be reunited for the first time since 1933 at Almine Rech Gallery New York. A second room of this exhibition will present modern and contemporary artworks inspired by primitive art including primitive pieces from the personal collections of Pablo Picasso, Alexander Calder and David Smith.

You can find more info here. Almine Rech, married to Bernard Picasso, has access to Picasso’s African art collection still in the family’s possession, so the second part surely will be a treat as well. The opening is on May 2, 2017, and the exhibition runs until June 15, 2017. Kuddos to Amine Rech and Bernard de Grunne for making this happen; this surely will be a historical show. Below additional, less known, installation shots of the original exhibition at Durand-Ruel Galleries in 1933. I’m curious how the new installation will look!

“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)

musee-du-quai-branly-jacques-chirac-picasso-primitif-eclectic-jordan-river-volper-lacharriere

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.