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modern african art

Landmarks in the globalisation of modern African art

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Contemporary African art is experiencing a renaissance in the West, moving beyond the primitivism of 1906 when western artists were influenced by traditional African art, and which sparked off a trend in the 1930s and 1940s of showing African artworks in the West.

By Natasha Becker found at http://www.sundayindependent.co.za/ February 12, 2006

Representation of African art in the West is a relatively young; it is only since the 1980s that African art became an area of research in (a very few) art history departments in the United States, and only in the late 1980s did major exhibitions tackle the issues of its inclusion.

African art has been a matter of contestation between what might be called the older academic stream, represented by exhibitions such as Contemporary African Artists: Changing Tradition, curated by Grace Stanislaus at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 1990; and theoretical publications such as Third Text, the newer academic stream represented by Africanist scholar-curators such as Okwui Enwezor, Olu Oguibe and Salah Hassan; and finally, the more conservative stream of various western collectors of both traditional and contemporary African art.

Between these various currents, quarrels and disagreements exist about western-educated and non-educated African artists; those who live abroad and those who live in Africa; the historic criticism that Africans have levelled against westerners for exoticised and naive representations of the continent; and the debates around African identity in a post-colonial age.

Ultimately, this is a struggle over control of representation of art from Africa in the West.

The most significant of the West's African exhibitions was in 1984 at the Museum of Modern Art (Moma) in New York, Primitivism in Twentieth Century Art, which displayed African works in conjunction with European modernist works. The similarities between the works were interpreted as showing the underlying spiritual embodiment of all mankind and not the influence of so-called primitive art on western artists, as had been the case.

The exhibition showed no interest in the so-called primitive works for their own sake, or the importance of non-western art in invigorating the art of the West during its modernist phase.

Africanist art scholars castigated the show for using the arts of Africa to prove the spiritual legitimacy of the colonised. Soon to follow was the exhibition Magiciens de la terre, directed by Jean-Hubert Martin at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris in 1989. The show was to exhibit western and non-western works side by side in a more neutral and less imperialistic way than Moma's primitivism show.

The exhibition focused on the work of the moment, that is the 1980s. Works by 50 western and 50 non-western artists were installed in a loose, disorganised way that tried to avoid assumptions of hierarchy. The works were not commented on, but were meant to "speak for themselves".

Many audiences felt they were seeing contemporary African art for the first time, but the exhibition raised two major problems: first, Africans had a problem with the fact that the works were chosen by white westerners who came up with a very different selection of artists than the African experts would have. The criticism from Africans, therefore, was that the white world was once again defining its culture by western standards rather than by African.

From the European perspective, the biggest problem was that the works had not yet been assimilated into the canon of western art and this opened up the history of western art to criticism.

While there were other exhibitions of modern or contemporary art from Africa before Magiciens, this exhibition opened up the floodgates for contemporary African art in the West.

The end of apartheid in South Africa marked our reintroduction into the global art stream with our admission to the 45th Venice Biennale after about 50 years of cultural boycott.

Contemporary South African art entered the discourse on the representation of African art in the West when a new discursive current was being articulated. The Short Century exhibition addressed art and politics in Africa from 1945 to 1994, bringing contemporary African art to the notice of western museums and their audiences.

The exhibition prompted a provocative review from Holland Cotter in The New York Times: "Africa, whatever it is, is everywhere. It's far more than just a continent. It's a global diaspora, and international culture and a metaphor with fantastical associations."

In Cotter's view, the exhibition marked the globalisation of contemporary African art. Indeed, the issue in the exhibition was no longer the binary opposition of coloniser and the colonised but the way colonialism was but one part of the dialogue.

Published on the web by Sunday Independent on February 11, 2006.

© Sunday Independent 2006. All rights reserved.

 

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In this section:
Start
Omhoog
Modern tribal art
African-textiles
Contemporary art
Monaco-Arts-Africa
African-vibes
Africa screams
Africa-remix
Documenta Madrid
African-words
Shona stone family sculpture
hairstyles - Blaffer gallery
Twins-Seven-Seven
Jean Pigozzi
Miami art museum-Mutu
River Crossing
Fiber-Art
airbrush art gallery
contemporary art
Seydou Keyta
Zanzibar artists
modern african art
museum of modern art
Cape Africa
art fairs list
Ifa Lethu
guggenheim bilbao
zimbabwe stone art
South African paintings
code coverage tool c
African American food
expanding Africa
primitivism revisited
Chapunga sculpture park
fire in the heart
tribal tattoos
south africa gallery
african encounters
architecture of the veil
blood art
Shona stone sculptures
Contemporary African Diasporan Arts
south african art
Contemporary art from Africa
jose vermeersch
Is It Art
Ebay African Art 

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The Tribal Arts of Africa

The Tribal Arts of Africa
Author: Jean-Baptiste Bacquart

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read also : Start ] Modern tribal art ] African-textiles ] Contemporary art ] Monaco-Arts-Africa ] African-vibes ] Africa screams ] Africa-remix ] Documenta Madrid ] African-words ] Shona stone family sculpture ] hairstyles - Blaffer gallery ] Twins-Seven-Seven ] Jean Pigozzi ] Miami art museum-Mutu ] River Crossing ] Fiber-Art ] airbrush art gallery ] contemporary art ] Seydou Keyta ] Zanzibar artists ] [ modern african art ] museum of modern art ] Cape Africa ] art fairs list ] Ifa Lethu ] guggenheim bilbao ] zimbabwe stone art ] South African paintings ] code coverage tool c ] African American food ] expanding Africa ] primitivism revisited ] Chapunga sculpture park ] fire in the heart ] tribal tattoos ] south africa gallery ] african encounters ] architecture of the veil ] blood art ] Shona stone sculptures ] Contemporary African Diasporan Arts ] south african art ] Contemporary art from Africa ] jose vermeersch ] Is It Art ] Ebay African Art ]

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