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The rise of Africa

29 mars 2017

The cradle of humanity and the land of the first men, Africa is an eternal foundation of our modern world. However long neglected, sidelined, plundered, the continent of 54 countries seems today to begin its revenge, in an area where it was no longer expected: Contemporary Art.

The revenge of a continent

9500 sq² of surface spread over nine floors in an old grain silo prodigiously rehabilitated. The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA) will open its doors in Cape Town, South Africa, by September 2017. The collection of Jochen Zeitz, the former owner of the Puma brand, will be highlighted with all the current stars of the continent, from Julie Mehretu, the Ethiopian with paintings that cost more than 4 million dollars, to the Dutch of South African origin, Marlene Dumas, one of the five most expensive female artists in the world. Until now, Africa has always remained on the margins of the great market of contemporary art and its many international representations. But, for some years now, it has been trying to catch up on lost time and even authorizes flamboyant blows.

Far from the traditional banalities on a craft, amateur and manual, they were thirty-five artists from the African continent to push the doors of the Arsenal at the 56th Biennale of Venice in 2015. Under the impulse of Nigerian Okwui Enwezor appointed Commissioner General, African Art has detached itself from the clichés that stick to the skin. More beautiful and stronger, the Ghanaian sculptor El Anatsui, and his captivating metal hangings, won the famous Lion d'Or, honoring the best artist. A great way to disclose a little more geography of art hitherto paralyzed to an East-West dialogue.

"We are the new chinese"

This new dimension taken by African Art inevitably is being seing into the market. On the continent, the enthusiasm is real, fairs and exhibitions are multiplying, with, since 1989, the Biennale of Dakar, otherwise known as Dak'Art, Art X Lagos in Nigeria, Biennale of Marrakech, Turbine Art Fair in South Africa or the Kenya Art Fair in Nairobi. Today, none of them reaches the size of the Joburg Art Fair, which, since 2008, has trained an international audience and has played a key role in the development of the art market in South Africa.

Its ninth edition presented last September exhibitors from twelve countries in Africa, Europe and the United States. 12,500 visitors rushed in the aisles and the fair recorded sales for nearly 2.8 million euros. For the professionals of the market, this is explained by the perpetual need of innovations of the sector. Victoria Mann, the founder of the Also Known As Africa (AKAA) fair, which had its first edition this year in Paris, sees "a still affordable market, which offers the opportunity for young collectors to buy artworks from artists whose rating will go up." A postulate that the Franco-Beninese Marie-Cécile Zinsou, director and founder of the artistic foundation of the same name in Benin, succinctly summarizes: "We are the new Chinese."

The Paris of Africa

"There is a paradox, the French are lagging behind contemporary African art, while they were pioneers with the creation of the Revue noire in Paris by Simon Njami (1991) and the exhibition "Magicians of the Earth " in 1989, "says Victoria Mann. Fashion effect or a late infatuation, in the spring of 2017, France gives the show to the African artists by reserving them many exhibitions. Africa is everywhere. Several exhibitions or galleries at the Grande Halle de la Villette, the Louis Vuitton Foundation, the Grand Palais, the Dapper museum in Paris, the Saint-Sauveur train station in Lille and the Abattoirs in Toulouse will present works by contemporary artists of this often forgotten continent. Photos, videos, paintings, monumental installations, sound works... This creative and insane profusion should mark the spirits, perhaps as much as "Magicians of the Earth" in Beaubourg and La Villette in 1989, almost thirty years ago! While fairs and events around African creation are increasing in Paris, the Art Paris Art Fair, held from 30 March to 2 April, offers a focus on Africa with around twenty galleries.

Boy with toy pistol (séries Growing in Darkness) de Mario Macilau, 2015 (Art Paris Art Fair)

The commissioner of this project is entrusted to Marie-Ann Yemsi, founder of Agent Créatif(s), a consulting and cultural production workshop oriented towards the promotion of emerging African artists and Diasporas. "The art market always needs novelty. After India, Asia and the Middle East, Africa is the last continent to be cleared, she explains. This interest in the African scene coincides with an economic interest for this continent, at a time when certain regions of Africa are experiencing unprecedented growth rates." The commissioner promises beautiful discoveries "There will be names already known but also many to discover. Notably the Angolan artists of the galleries ELA-Espaço Luanda Arte and Tiwani Contemporary, the Ugandans Sanaa Gateja and Eria Sane Nsubuga presented by Afriart Gallery and L’Agence in Paris, the drawings of the Togolese Sadikou Oukepdjo and those of the Tunisian Atef Maatallah or the wall sculptures of Moffat Takadiwa from Zimbabwe”.

(Kura Shomali Sans titre , 2015 Peinture 100 x 73 cm Magnin-A, Paris)

(Maory Prince Mensonge téléphonique, 2016 Peinture 133 x 113 cm 1,242 South-East)

According to Marie-Cécile Zinsou, an "African pride is on its way "while, for Simon Njami, curator of exhibitions and art critic "There was a time when making great hype around Africa was a necessary evil. It is no longer needed today, for there is now a better recognition of artists and their work, but there is always a ceiling. The problem is not to avoid any demonstration with an "Africa" label. It depends on what you put in it and why." Marie-Ann Yemsi is concluding "The new imaginary will come from Africa."

Niankoye Lama, Africa in the heart

The artistic journey of Niankoye Lama begins in his hometown Nzérékoré on the southern side of the Republic of Guinea. His passion for drawing and painting led him to go to the National School of Fine Arts in Conakry in the 1970s.

Graduated in graphic arts, he attended various workshops and experimented several techniques. Very attentive to the world of forms and colors, he begins by passionately copying nature. He traveled to his country, to Ivory Coast and finally to France where he settled in 1990. His hometown is a large city of about 300,000 inhabitants in the center of which is a large market. In this market, surrounded by a few flamboyant trees, the visitor is immediately attracted by the movement and the colors. The Zalee market remains his eternal source of inspiration. In general, the tropical atmosphere of African markets and cities fosters its creation. The African theme with its heritage constitutes a base from which it does not depart but which it tries to interpret in a personal way. The vaporous spots of color transcribe the impression of movement and tumult proper to these places of exchange. His works are a feast of the senses for the spectator.

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