EN­COUN­TERS: Art basel in hong kong

Hong Kong Tatler - - Features -

about the reap­pro­pri­a­tion of a cul­tural and so­cial iden­tity of black peo­ple af­ter the years of apartheid,” she says. “Zulu kids burn­ing their pass­ports is just one ex­am­ple of this new gen­er­a­tion try­ing to build their fu­ture and find their place in a con­tra­dic­tory so­ci­ety, where the West and Africa are try­ing to co­ex­ist.”

Other com­men­ta­tors on vi­o­lence in­clude Mozam­bi­can sculp­tor Gonçalo Mabunda, who creates ob­jects from weapons re­cov­ered at the end of his coun­try’s civil war, and Ivo­rian artist Aboudia, who took refuge in a base­ment stu­dio from heavy fight­ing in 2011. Dur­ing that time Aboudia started mak­ing his largescale, bru­tally en­er­getic paint­ings, which com­bine a su­per­fi­cial in­no­cence with a dark in­te­rior world. “While the vi­tal­ity of his style re­calls Basquiat, the darker un­der­cur­rents and themes de­scribe a bat­tle­field straight out of Goya,” says Jack Bell of Lon­don’s Jack Bell Gallery, which rep­re­sents Aboudia.

Which brings us to the role gov­ern­ments have played in their coun­tries’ marginal­i­sa­tion from the art world, gov­ern­ments that have re­peat­edly been asked to put more re­sources into lo­cal cul­ture—to no avail in most cases. Artists need to find rep­re­sen­ta­tion abroad be­cause no money is in­vested lo­cally, as il­lus­trated by the fact just four African coun­tries sent gal­leries to 1:54 last year—five from South Africa and one each from Nige­ria, Ivory Coast and Morocco. And it is a sim­i­lar story for the Ar­mory Show. “We are just touch­ing the tip of the ice­berg with what we are rep­re­sent­ing,” says El Glaoui.

Lon­don-based gal­leries rep­re­sent more African artists than the gal­leries of any other city. Toby Clarke of the Vigo Gallery in May­fair will be tak­ing work by Su­danese painter Ibrahim El-salahi to the Ar­mory Show. “I had, to my dis­grace, not known his work un­til Frances Mor­ris of the Tate Mod­ern showed it to me. But as soon as I saw it, I was blown away,” says Clarke. “I’ve been rep­re­sent­ing him ever since and roughly half the work we sell goes to mu­se­ums—in­clud­ing the Tate Mod­ern and the Mu­seum of Mod­ern Art in New York. Cu­ra­tors are now far more in­clu­sive and are tak­ing a more so­phis­ti­cated world view of the his­tory of art, re­al­is­ing that the Amer­i­can and Euro-cen­tric view that has dom­i­nated their col­lec­tions is lim­it­ing. They are now play­ing catch-up, hence the de­mand from mu­se­ums, par­tic­u­larly for Ibrahim, who is seen as the god­fa­ther of African modernism by many.”

Some African artists fi­nally hang along­side their Euro­pean, US and Asian con­tem­po­raries. Chéri Samba from the Demo­cratic Re­pub­lic of Congo is at the Pom­pi­dou Cen­tre. South African Wil­liam Ken­tridge and Ghana’s El Anat­sui hang at the Bri­tish Mu­seum. And as the world opens its eyes to more African artists, we will all ben­e­fit from un­der­stand­ing a bit more about life on the con­ti­nent. “I have learned that if you don’t speak, you let other peo­ple de­fine what Africa is,” says Ma­gadlela. “We can’t change Africa, and we can’t change our African­ness, but we can change the way peo­ple think of us. And that is im­por­tant.” Run­ning from March 24 to 26, Art Basel in Hong Kong prom­ises an ex­cit­ing, di­verse land­scape of cut­ting-edge works by lead­ing and emerg­ing artists. Some 239 gal­leries from 35 coun­tries will be rep­re­sented. Top in­ter­na­tional gal­leries, in­clud­ing Hauser & Wirth and Gagosian, will be show­ing work along­side Asia’s best, such as Pearl Lam Gal­leries. This year also sees the de­but of Tu­nisia’s Selma Fe­ri­ani Gallery, the first African gallery out­side South Africa to be part of the show. A high­light will be En­coun­ters, an ex­hi­bi­tion of large mu­seum pieces cu­rated by Alexie Glass-kan­tor. It in­cludes work by In­done­sia’s Fe­bie Baby­rose and Her­bert Hans, and the Philip­pines’ Ruddy Ha­tu­mena.

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