ENCOUNTERS: Art basel in hong kong
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.