Archive for “Ivory Coast”

Death of artist Frédéric Bruly Bouabré

Abidjan, 29 January 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

Frédéric Bruly Bouabré died on 28 January 2014 in Abidjan, at the age of 91. The news was announced by Parisian gallerist André Magning, who had closely followed the artist’s career. Bouabré was predominantly known for his graphic and pictorial images.

The artist first began to receive international recognition following his participation in the 1989 exhibition “Magiciens de la terre”, which was held at Paris’s Pompidou Centre and the city’s Grande Halle de la Villette. His work became increasingly visible after this event, with Bouabré featuring in shows such as: “World Envisioned: Alighieroe Boetti and Frédéric Bruly Bouabré” at the Dia Center for the Arts, New York (1994-95); Cassel’s Documenta 11 (2002); and the 55th Venice Biennale.

Frédéric Bruly Bouabré was born around 1923 in Zéprégühé, the Ivory Coast. A multi-faceted artist, he was at the same time a philosopher, poet and storyteller. Driven by an encyclopaedic ambition, he sought to catalogue and explain everything, engaging in a variety of schools of thought. He notably created his own unique alphabet – the “alphabet bété”, designed as a means of communicating knowledge to his people – an endeavour which would later capture the attention of celebrated scientist Théodore Monod.

Cécile Fakhoury gallery to celebrate first anniversary

Abidjan, 29 July 2013, Art Media Agency (AMA).

The Cécile Fakhoury, Abidjan, is to celebrate its first anniversary in September 2013. Though the space is to be closed in August, it will re-open in September with “Mécaniques des fluides (naviguer, transporter, filmer)” (Fluid Mechanics – navigation, transportation, filming).

Past exhibitions to have featured at the gallery include Aboudia’s “Aujourd’hui je travaille avec mon petit fils, Aboudia” (Today, I am working with my grandson Aboudia), “Collection II: L’appel de Lilian” (Collection II: Lilian’s Call) by Paul Sika, Cheikh Ndiaye’s “(l)n(f)ormal visitation” and Nestor Da’s “Ondes de Perturbation” (Tumultuous Waves).

Interview with Cécile Fakhoury

Abidjan, 19 July 2012, Art Media Agency (AMA).

In September 2012, Cécile Fakhoury will open her first gallery in Abidjan, Ivory Coast’s economic capital. Having spent around ten years travelling across Africa, she discovered on this continent an exceptional cultural richness and her meetings with African artists eventually inspired her to develop this project. Ivory Coast, formerly known for its thriving economy and political stability, has been going through periods of social and political crises for about ten years. The Cécile Fakhoury Gallery is an excellent project, having the potential to contribute to the development of the cultural sector in Ivory Coast. Art Media Agency was thrilled to have the opportunity to interview Cécile Fakhoury, talking about her project and the role of art in Africa.

Art Media Agency: Can you introduce yourself in a few words?

Cécile Fakhoury: I was born in Paris and studied there in a business school and studied art trade at the Institut d’études superieures des arts. These studies were punctuated with professional experiences and internships in France and the United States in galleries and auction houses. I have been travelling across Ivory Coast for ten years, and the meetings the artists and my settling down in Abidjan urged me to develop a project in this framework. The gallery’s structure quickly imposed itself.

AMA: Where does your passion for African art, and particularly for Ivorian art, come from?

CF: I have had a real interest in art for years. My parents have a modern art gallery in Paris, I have always been sensitised to creation. Then I discovered contemporary art and when I travelled to Africa I had the opportunity to meet artists and to discover a very strong cultural richness. I lived my first years there as a succession of shocks, I have seen so many different things, artists with different visions and fascinating relationships to the world.

AMA: What urged you to initiate such a project in Ivory Coast? Why did you choose Ivory Coast and not another African country?

CF: Ivory Coast is now my country, I live here and I got the nationality thanks to marriage. Beyond theses personal reasons, Abidjan is an emerging city; it is the economic capital of Ivory Coast and a key spot of Western French-speaking Africa. There are so many things to regarding culture and art market. Developing a strong cultural scene which could lead to debates and answers is important.

AMA: Who participated in this project?

CF: This is a personal project. It represents the fulfilment of so many things; of my meetings with the artists, of my desire to do something concrete with them, of developing a structure giving them a great visibility, and of participating in the development of an art market on this continent. It is a serious commitment, and I am sticking to it seriously.

AMA: What is the goal of your project?

CF: The first goal is to give African artists a great visibility. I obviously wish to display African artists and also to display international ones. It is about bringing an open vision of creation and, that way, making the artists part of a global entity. The aim is to show Ivoirians, Africans, and the rest of the world the artists’ ability to overtake boundaries and to define themselves as “contemporary artists”.

AMA: You are to inaugurate your gallery with the “Aujourd’hui je travaille avec Aboudia” exhibition (Today I’m working with Aboudia). What is the particularity of this collaboration between Bouabré and Aboudia?

CF: This exhibition well illustrates the idea of dialogue the gallery wants to convey. Frédéric Bruly Bouabré is an internationally famous Ivorian artist; he is more than 90 years old and has displayed in the greatest museums. Aboudia is a young artist (28) who also Ivorian. This collaboration gave birth to a series of twelve paintings combining the vision and language of two artists separated by six decades. The result is a common work with a singular strength, where their relationships to the world are drawn and confronted with an extraordinary eloquence. It was incredible to see how their ideas and gestures met. It was a passionate meeting between two Ivorian artists from different generations. This meeting, requested by Aboudia, appeared to Bouabré and myself as a nice vision of Ivorian art.

AMA: At the same time, you are to display a solo exhibition of Aboudia. What will be the displayed works?

CF: Yes, the gallery will display his latest works; large scale ones (four metres long) and medium size ones. Movement is without a doubt what characterises most Aboudia and his work. His paintings are really expressive, between ingenuousness and violence with a major preoccupation: the exploration of the human race. He lived his entire life in Abidjan but had the opportunity to travel and discover cities such as London, Johannesburg, and New York thanks to his exhibitions or by his own means. He has a truly cosmopolite vision and this opening to the world gives his work a considerable universality.

AMA: You travelled a lot in Africa. What differences have you seen between the countries concerning the art world?

CF: Each African country contributes to the artistic scene. South Africa is really dynamic in this field while the rest of the continent is less dynamic. Due to structures and solid actions such as auction house Art House in Nigeria, the Dakar Biennial, the Rencontres de Bamako in Mali, art centres and foundations such as the Zinsou Foundation in Benin, and the Raw Material Company in Senegal, the influence and the contemporary art market in Africa is growing more and more.

AMA: What are the further developments in the African art world?

CF: So that Western Africa can strongly position itself, it needs more spaces to display artists, something it is still lacking now. We lack structures and often lack funds. There is a fundamental need to restore museums. Concerning the market development, it will go from a better visibility for artists, a serious positioning of the major art personalities: galleries, institutions, museums, and collectors. African collectors and potential buyers must invest in African artists. Today, there are still few artistic events with a true commercial aim, but it will come, in a few years there will be art fairs as in any other continent.

AMA: What are your future projects?

CF: The gallery is my only project for now. Later, I wish to create dynamics around this location, like succeeding in attracting young populations. The Zinsou Foundation in Benin is doing an incredible job in this field by organising exhibition visits with support of hundreds of schools from Cotonou and its suburbia. The idea is to increase the awareness of young generations concerning the artistic creation of their country and of other countries; to make art and culture available to them. I also want to form a library, organise debates; always with the idea of developing interaction and exchange between the gallery, the artists and the public. I am also discussing exchange, meeting and collaboration projects with African institutions and French locations.

Where does contemporary African art stand in today’s world?

Africa, 26 July 2012, Art Media Agency (AMA).

The African continent enjoys a spectacular cultural wealth – especially for arts. But is such wealth recognised on an international level and throughout the continent itself? To what degree is African contemporary art valued in today’s world?

Not until the 1980s did the West begin to discover contemporary African art. Only over the past thirty years have steps been taken to develop and reassert the value of contemporary African art both in Africa and at an international level. Some Western exhibition curators such as Jean-Hubert Martin, John Picton, Clementine Delisse, Hans Obrist and Susan Vogel, who contributed to the international acknowledgement of African art, are at the roots of this change. Jean-Hubert Martin, art historian and former director of the Centre Pompidou in Paris, played a pivotal role when he organised the first major exhibition of non-Western art, “Magiciens de la terre” in 1989. Having sparked a debate on contemporary African art in Africa and around the globe, the exhibition is considered to have been a decisive turning point for African art, as it gained visibility in museums and on the art market. According to the German newspaper Handelsblatt, two other notable events contributed to the change in Western views on African art, “Art from South Africa”, a 1990 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford, and “Art contemporain arabe” (Contemporary Middle Eastern Art), a 1988 exhibition at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris. In 2004, Jean-Hubert Martin organised the touring exhibition “Africa Remix”, which gave an overview of the art scene of all African nations throughout the entire continent. First shown in Düsseldorf in Germany, “Africa Remix” later moved on to Paris, London, and Tokyo.

A number of key figures from the Western art world may also be credited for bringing contemporary African art to the most prestigious Western art institutions. However, they were often met with criticism from African exhibition curators living abroad, who denounced stereotypical images of African art and Western ethnocentricity in playing “teacher”, explained an article published in The Herald on 20 March 2011. Some expatriate exhibition curators, like Olu Oguibe, Okwui Enwezor, Salah Hassan, Gilan Tawandros, and Simon Njami were determined to change any and all preconceived notions on contemporary African art and remarkably contributed to artistic practices and to the organisation of artistic events in Africa. Moreover, for the past twenty years, artists and African-born exhibition curators have participated in international events, such as Art Basel Miami, la Documenta, the Venice Biennial and Arco Madrid. It can be noted that the beginning of the 21st century ushered in a wave of exhibition curators on the African continent, thus marking an important point in the development of the contemporary art scene in Africa.

Despite this, many art communities on the continent continue to suffer from a lack of framework, institutions, resources, and recognition, due in part to government attitudes. Usually, they do not develop the cultural sector enough, not realising how it can contribute to the development of a country. Today there are few cultural sites and no Fine Arts schools in Senegal, asserts Ken Aïcha Sy in the magazine Boytown. One young woman and founder of the blog Wakh’art, whose goal is to create a discourse on African art, added: “Considering the richness of this culture, our leaders should be giving it much more attention. Spreading public awareness would be even better”.

Cécile Fakhoury, founder of the Cécile Fakhoury Gallery in Ivory Coast, explained in an interview with AMA that there are a number of intracontinental differences; she noted that South Africa experiences a more lively art scene compared to other African nations. She additionally stated that so that the entire continent can position itself more firmly in the international art scene, more places and art events would be needed to raise greater visibility for artists, which would thus develop the art market on the whole.

A few significant measures to develop the contemporary African art scene on the continent have already been taken. Among such measures are the auction house Art House in Nigeria, the Dakar Biennial in Senegal, the Rencontres de Bamako in Mali, as well as art centres and foundations like the Zinsou Foundation in the Republic of Benin, and Senegal’s Raw Material Company. Even more are expected to appear in the near future. Some of them are described in this article.

In 2005, the Zinsou Foundation opened in Cotonou in Benin. First and foremost an exhibition space for African-born contemporary artists, the institution also intends to create a cultural exchange network. At the heart of the project is the advancement of African artistic heritage, education, development, and poverty reduction, according to the foundation’s website. The centre offers an array of projects whose purpose is to make children discover contemporary art. Furthermore, the foundation has established a number of children’s libraries and also organises workshops for schoolchildren – often in collaboration with artists, illustrators, musicians, and photographers.

Senegal’s Raw Material Company, located in Dakar, is “a centre for art, knowledge, and society” set up in 2008 and a site for artistic practice and critical exchange. The centre’s purpose is to promote growth and appreciation of artistic and intellectual creativity on the African continent. It offers a space for production, exhibition, meeting, research, and debate. One such example was an international symposium on the creation of art institutions in Africa, which was organised by the centre in January 2012. Participants from various African countries had the opportunity to discuss the current state of affairs in order to establish other similar art institutions in Africa.

A wide array of notable art events has since been organised in a number of African countries. The contemporary art fair JoburgArtFair has been taking place in Johannesburg in South Africa since 2008. It is the first official art fair to take place – and currently the only of its kind – and is reserved exclusively for native African artists. The goal of Artlogic, the fair’s organisers, is to make contemporary artists more accessible to the public and introduce such artists as major players on the international art scene. The event is also an important platform for young emerging artists.

The African photography biennial Les Rencontres de Bamako is held in Mali’s capital city of Bamako every two years. Set up in 1994, the event underscores the richness of photography, a sector of African art which is still relatively undervalued. Early editions of the event brought African photographers into the limelight, giving many of them the opportunity to exchange ideas. Today the event is a significant platform which showcases various trends in African photography and video, while also being a tool of interaction for artists, exhibition curators, collectors, the media, and the public at large.

Furthermore, the primary mission of Ethiopia’s Zoma Contemporary Art Center is to encourage and support young Ethiopian artists. The centre offers residencies to local and international artist in the city of Addis Ababa and the town of Harla. Named after the young Ethiopian artist Zoma Shiferraw, who passed away in 1979 following a serious illness, the centre opened in 2002. In addition to offering residencies, the centre also organises seminars and workshops.

The preliminary framework and steps which have been taken to develop the arts sector throughout the African continent have so far been established, but there still remains much to do. As summarized by Koyo Kouoh, artistic director of the Senegalese art centre Raw Material Company, summarised in an interview with the site Afrique Jet: “The African continent must set up its own institutional framework for the good of cultural expression. It is time to create the formal and institutional framework so that art in Africa can better contribute to the development of critical opinion within a free and open civil society”.

New gallery in Abidjan, Cécile Fakhoury Gallery

Abidjan, 5 July 2012, Art Media Agency (AMA).

The opening of the Cécile Fakhoury Gallery will display the exhibition “Aujourd’hui je travaille avec mon petit fils, Aboudia” (Today I am working with my grand son, Aboudia) created by Frédéric Bruly Bouabré and Aboudia . It will take place from 14 September to 17 November 2012, in the new gallery space in Abidjan. A dozen works embody the meeting of two inspirations in an intergenerational dialogue between two artists that have a six-decade age difference. Their works are colourful, smooth and sometimes childish but always joyful and reminiscent of the street art style developed by Jean-Michel Basquiat.

This first exhibition demonstrates the gallery’s objective to give exposure to the young African contemporary artistic scene and to showcase works made in collaboration with contemporary artists from all nationalities. It will also promote its artists on the international art market by working with local and international institutions and collectors.