The number and diversity of African art exhibitions are growing at a significant pace; so too are the number of exhibitors and visitors. Art fairs present a unique opportunity to discover new objects, speak to experts and connect with other collectors.
Almine Rech Gallery New York is pleased to present Imaginary Ancestors, a group exhibition organized with Carlo Severi and Bernard de Grunne. Imaginary Ancestors looks at Primitivism in modern and contemporary art, on the one hand restaging a seminal 1933 Durand-Ruel Gallery exhibition in New York of Fang sculptures and contemporary paintings of the time, and on the other hand presenting a parallel exhibition of Primitivist modern and affiliated contemporary works by Joe Bradley, Mark Grotjahn, Matthew Lutz-Kinoy, Ana Mendieta, James Turrell and Erika Verzutti, among others.
Some of the most important works in the world brought together for the first time. These pieces of outstanding form and beauty are representative of the great cultures of Africa. Notable characteristics of the collections of the Musée Dapper are the diversity of their geographic origins and their antiquity. The exhibition presents around 130 of its most important pieces. Some are unique and without any equivalent in the world, such as the sculptures from Gabon (Fang, Kota, Punu), Cameroon (Bangwa), Benin (Fon) and Mali (Dogon, Soninke). Long-awaited by the public, Masterpieces from Africa will enable visitors to discover keynote works of art whose significance is rooted in the cultures of Central and West Africa.
NOMA is proud to present a selection of African art from the bequest of the Françoise Billion Richardson Charitable Trust. Françoise was the individual most responsible for the development and success of the museum’s sub-Saharan African collection, through her encouragement, assistance and unwavering enthusiasm over the years. Françoise endowed NOMA’s curatorship for African art, established an African art purchase fund and funded the building of the present African galleries, which are named for her parents, on NOMA’s third floor.
The Inner Eye: Vision and Transcendence in African Arts features 100 outstanding sculptures and eye-catching textiles that explore how the arts and their visual regimes enable transitions from one stage of life to the next and from one state of being to another. Works reflect culturally specific notions of visuality and celebrate artists as agents of insight and transformation. Iconic figures, masks, initiation objects, and reliquary guardians guide people to spirit realms, to the highest levels of esoteric wisdom, and to the afterlife. Many works possess downcast eyes of contemplation and spiritual reverence, while others depict piercing projections of power and protection, or a multiplicity of eyes for heightened vigilance and awareness. The exhibition addresses various ways of seeing and encourages viewers to notice how works were made to look upon, gaze within, and see beyond ordinary limitations.
This exhibition features a rare group of 11 headdresses worn in Joli masquerades held in Sierra Leone’s capital city of Freetown in the 1970s. Joli headdresses are among the most unusual, complex, and elaborate masquerade configurations we know from sub-Saharan Africa, and they reflect the blending of cultural influences and peoples in the dynamic port city of Freetown. The headdresses in this exhibition were performed to mark the end of the Muslim month of Ramadan. The exhibition explains the history of Joli and the various threads of influence that led to this fantastic urban masquerade popular for only a brief period in the 1970s.
African Master Carvers: Known and Famous addresses the false assumption that all African artists who created tradition-based art were anonymous, even though few historical artists south of the Sahara are known by name, and biographical data about their training and life is scarce. Through fifteen stellar examples from different cultural regions in West, Central, and Southern Africa, the exhibition explores the lives and works of a select group of master carvers who enjoyed recognition and sometimes even fame during their lifetime. Also included are the artists’ biographies and, when available, their portrait photographs.
“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.
Africa, a continent without a History? Although the preconceptions persist, the facts themselves are undeniable: Africans have never lived in isolation. Although ignored for a long time, exchanges within Africa, and outside of its borders, began thousands of years ago, well before independence, colonisation and the arrival of the first Portuguese ships at the end of the 15th century. This is demonstrated in the sculptures, gold and ivory pieces, paintings and other artworks presented in the African Routes exhibition.