Contemporary African Art Collection / Jean Pigozzi
|Interview : Sheena Wagstaff, Chief Curator, & Kerryn Greenberg, Assistant Curator, Tate Modern|
CAAC: As of 27 March, Tate Modern will display some 80 drawings by Frédéric Bruly Bouabré, one of Africa's foremost artists, who is from the Ivory Coast. Bouabré's very complex and unique work is probably less easy to display than - for example - Seydou Keita or Chéri Samba. What made you decide to exhibit this particular artist?
Sheena Wagstaff & Kerryn Greenberg: All three of these artists you mention make complex and unique work. This is the principal reason for choosing to show their work. With each of these displays we have carefully selected the individual works and considered how these can be positioned and interpreted within the context of Tates collection.
CAAC: How would you describe Bouabré's art?
SW & KG: Frédéric Bruly Bouabrés drawings are deceptively simple. Realised with few tools ball-point pens and coloured pencils on small pieces of thick, raw cardboard - they follow the basic format of 10 x 15 cm, and are typically bordered by hand-written texts in French, Bété or English. The modest means by which they are created is countered by the weighty and varied topics Bouabré seeks to address. His is an immensely ambitious endeavour with each drawing acting as an entry in an encyclopaedic type project that reveals his very particular view of the world.
CAAC: How do you explain the vitality of Contemporary African Art? Which artists interest you most?
SW & KG: A lot of contemporary African art feels very urgent right now. Many of the artists are socially-engaged, intensely aware of their political, social and economic position in the world, using this as a starting point for their art. There are a number of photographers in particular who are making profoundly interesting work.
CAAC: Contemporary African art is still less visible or less well known than other forms of contemporary art, why do you think that is and have you noticed any changes over the last few years?
SW & KG: Contemporary African art has definitely become more visible in London in recent years. Beginning with the large-scale festival Africa 95 (with the Royal Academy of Arts exhibition, Africa: the Art of a Continent as its centrepiece) and continuing with Africa 05 co-ordinated by the British Museum, South Bank Centre and Arts Council England (featuring the large and influential exhibition Africa Remix at the Hayward Gallery), a number of different organisations have been showing an increasing interest and commitment to contemporary African art. The challenges are manifold though, not least because of a lack of art infrastructure within Africa itself, which makes it difficult to source information about artists one might be interested in from afar.
CAAC: After 'Popular Painting' from Kinshasa and Seydou Keita, the Bouabré "room", within the permanent collection will be the 3rd display of artworks from the Pigozzi collection at Tate Modern. Do you have any other projects coming up involving contemporary African art ?
SW & KG: While past projects at Tate Modern have focused on monographic exhibitions and displays including Mohamed Camara's photography, sculptures and works on paper by Nicholas Hlobo and installations by Latifa Echakhch, Tate Liverpool is currently showing Afro Modern: Journeys through the Black Atlantic until 25 April 2010. This exhibition explores the impact of different black cultures from around the Atlantic on art from the early twentieth-century to today and features over 140 works by more than 60 artists.
Interview, Rémi Carlioz for CAAC, March 2010