African art has been having a very long moment. Over the past 10 years, contemporary artists from the continent – from the Ghanaian sculptor El Anatsui to Kenyan artist Wangechi Mutu to South African photographer Zanele Muholi – have continued to build their names on the international stage.
African artists have been presenting in major museums and galleries across Europe and the United States, while increasing numbers of African countries have shown at the prestigious Venice Biennale, including Ghana’s critically-acclaimed debut this year.
Both Sotheby’s and Bonhams auction houses meanwhile have set up their own African contemporary and modern art departments, signalling that the market is paying attention, too.
“Going into the new decade, I feel we are starting from a stronger foothold,” said Marwan Zakhem, the founder of Gallery 1957, in Ghana’s capital, Accra. “The international art scene has woken up to the wealth of creativity offered across Africa and the diaspora,” Zakhem told Al Jazeera.
“A lot of groundwork has been made in terms of affirming African art as a key component of the ever-flourishing arts scene, so it’s an exciting time to be a part of it”.
What is most notable, however, is the growth seen within the continent. Addressing a crippling lack of infrastructure that has previously forced talent to look elsewhere for opportunity and support, major cities are bolstering their local scenes while establishing themselves as international art destinations.
Art fairs have popped up to seduce collectors, new residences have given creatives spaces to develop their craft and museums such as Cape Town’s Zeitz MOCAA and the Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden (MACAAL) in Marrakech have opened to showcase the best on offer.
“There’s still more to be done though,” Zakhem said. “I hope the decade ahead sees more continent-wide investment in the visual arts – more museums, more projects, more educational support – and more events bringing international visitors here.”
As the year – and the decade – draws to a close, here are four African art events to watch out for in 2020 and beyond.
Marrakech enters new decade as first African Capital of Culture
Thanks to the opening of MACAAL, 2018’s inaugural Moroccan edition of the 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair and the commercial success of artists such as Hassan Hajjaj – the subject of a recent retrospective at Paris’s Maison Europeenne de la Photographie – Marrakech has become a major draw for critics and collectors.
As 2020’s African Capital of Culture – the first city to hold the designation – it will no doubt be increasing its efforts to engage art lovers and buyers alike.
“Over the last five years, Marrakech has struck an excellent balance in preserving and building on its rich cultural histories, while establishing itself as a space for artistic experimentation. Alongside this, there is a growing number of commercial spaces and both independent and government funding, giving artists more opportunities to support their practices in the long term,” said 1:54 founder Touria El Glaoui.
“I grew up in Morocco and my father [Hassan El Glaoui] was a painter who always encouraged us to engage with art histories, so seeing the scene grow and blossom has been amazing to witness.”
In February, 1:54 will return to the city’s luxurious La Mamounia hotel for the third year, hosting some 20 European and African galleries. At the same time, MACAAL, the Muse Yves Saint Laurent Marrakech and other local spaces will be staging their own exhibitions, creating an unofficial art week of sorts.
How the rest of the year shapes up will surely set the template for how future cities make use of the Capital of Culture designation.
Art X Lagos celebrates five years
The birthplace of art stars including Ben Enwonwu – whose Tutu, dubbed the African Mona Lisa, sold for a record $1.6m in 2018 – Victor Ehikhamenor and Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Nigeria is an obvious choise to be the home of West Africa’s first international art fair: Art X Lagos.
Launched in 2016 by entrepreneur Tokini Peterside, Art X Lagos serves as an exhibition space, marketplace and classroom for those looking to immerse themselves in the world of contemporary African art.
It is also notable for prioritising younger artists over established pioneers through both its exhibitions and the Access Bank ART X Prize, which awards one emerging artist with funding, mentoring and an international residency.
“I see how wonderful and massive [Art X Lagos] is becoming and I think it’s placing Lagos as a real arts hub, which I really love, and a serious one,” said Adora Mba, the founder of the Afropolitan Collector, an art advisory platform.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing how big it can go.”
Dak’Art Biennale returns
Of all Africa’s major art events, few rouse as much enthusiasm and respect as Senegal‘s Dakar Biennale, commonly known as Dak’Art.
“It always brings together the best of the African art community to show brilliant work, engage in important dialogues and, of course, celebrate,” said Gallery 1957’s Zakhem.
“It always outdoes itself,” agreed Mba, for whom Dak’Art is the ultimate place to discover new talent and up-and-comers. “I don’t even know how they keep producing such amazing art and artists and bringing people in.”
Supported by the country’s Ministry of Culture and Communication, the 14th edition will centre on the theme of I’Ndaffa/Forger/Out of Fire – a trilingual take on the word “forge” in Serer, French and English.
“This general theme refers to the founding act of African creation, which nourishes the diversity of contemporary African creativity, while projecting new ways of telling and understanding Africa,” Artistic Director El Hadji Malick Ndiaye, a curator at Dakar’s Theodore Monod Museum of African Art, said in a statement.
“It represents the dynamics and action of creating, recreating and kneading. It thus refers to the forge that transforms, the deposit from which the raw material comes, and to the fire that creates.”
This year’s event will be held from May 28 to June 28.
South Africa’s wine region invites the art world in
Africa may not lead the world in terms of the number of major art events held annually, but there is no shortage of arts professionals looking to add to the tally.
To that end, the Stellenbosch Triennale, conceived by the Stellenbosch Outdoor Sculpture Trust, will make its debut in South Africa in February.
Breaking with convention, the event is more about engaging the community than appealing to art world insiders.
On their website, organisers say they plan to turn the city into a “curated public laboratory for creative expressions and engagements” where all are invited to interrogate our relationship with nature, the limits of technology and the definition of citizenship.
Works will be displayed at sites across the historic city, and there will also be opportunities to continue the conversation in workshops and online.
The art of digitizing ancient calligraphy – CNN
From the moment we wake up and check the messages on our smartphones, we’re exposed to text design. Throughout our day, storefronts and websites announce themselves, first and foremost, through the typefaces they use — whether it’s the Helvetica used by New York City’s subway, the approachability of Cooper Black, or the proprietary CNN Sans that you’re reading on this page.
For Adonian Chan, a 33-year-old graphic designer based in Hong Kong and co-founder of design company Trilingua, the different texts we encounter in our daily lives amount to what he calls a “visual landscape.”
In his hometown, signs written in traditional Chinese characters can be found around every corner. In the hectic district of Mong Kok, neon signs advertise pay-by-the-hour hotels and foot massage parlors. In the quiet neighborhood of Tai Hang, hand-drawn signboards alert passersby to auto repair shops and Chinese medicine stalls.
But one calligraphy style, above all, has come to represent Hong Kong for Chan: Beiwei Kaishu, a dynamic way of writing that has its origins in 4th century China. But Beiwei Kaishu is endangered, Chan says. That’s why he’s on a mission to digitize it into a typeface — and save it.
A black and white sign — written in the Beiwei Kaishu style — draws attention to a chiropractor’s clinic in Hong Kong’s Yau Ma Tei district. Credit: Adonian Chan
Written in stone
According to Keith Tam, head of communication design at the Hong Kong Design Institute, Beiwei Kaishu originated in the Northern Wei Dynasty (386 — 534 AD), and was inscribed on stones to document historical events.
In the 19th century, Zhao Zhiqian, a renowned Qing dynasty calligrapher with an interest in epigraphy — the study of inscriptions — crafted his own rendition of Beiwei Kaishu and, using a brush instead of a carving knife, revived the ancient style.
The art of digitizing ancient calligraphy
Tam says although it’s not possible to pinpoint when Beiwei Kaishu made its way to Hong Kong, a well-known local calligrapher named Au Kin Kung, who was born in the 1880s, helped to spread its popularity in the city during the 20th century.
“[Au] was what we might call a ‘commercial calligrapher,’ who inscribed many shops and organizations throughout Hong Kong,” says Tam. “His commercial signage work almost always used Beiwei Kaishu.”
The Hong Kong incarnation of Beiwei Kaishu “evolved from Zhao Zhiqian’s rather softer style to become more exaggerated in the stroke beginnings, inflection points and endings,” says Tam, adding that the Hong Kong Beiwei Kaishu is “a lot more dynamic and powerful than Zhao’s hand.”
After World War II, Beiwei Kaishu was used prolifically in Hong Kong signage, partly because it is highly legible, even from far distances, says Tam. “Pragmatism is one of the characterizations of southern Chinese people, and Beiwei Kaishu seems to be a pragmatic choice.”
What sets Beiwei Kaishu apart from other Chinese writing styles is its asymmetric construction, bold lines and unexpected angles — something that makes it “energetic,” says Chan.
But with the advent of computer-generated fonts and LED signs, Chan says he observed that signs written in the style — work that depended on the skill of calligraphers — were disappearing from Hong Kong.
“It’s almost extinct,” says Chan, pointing to the rapid transformation of Hong Kong’s urban landscape. “They demolish old buildings and, of course, the shops, as well. So it’s really destruction to the visual culture.” As a consequence, few designers working today are aware of the Beiwei Kaishu style, he says.
Beiwei Kaishu signs like this are disappearing from Hong Kong. This one belongs to Sweetheart Garden Restaurant, in Kowloon, which is famous for its steak. Credit: Adonian Chan
Creating ‘Beiwei Zansyu’
In 2016, Chan asked Wong Gok Loeng, a master of calligraphy in Hong Kong and apprentice of the famed Au Kin Kung, to teach him to write in the Beiwei Kaishu style.
Chan then started the process of digitizing the characters. He first writes the characters on paper with a brush and ink, which gives him a sense of proportion. Next, he makes a pencil sketch. Finally, he recreates the characters digitally, using a computer program called Glyphs.
One of the main challenges when digitizing the ancient calligraphy is striking a balance between the artistic expression of handwritten lettering and the need for consistency and coherence in font design, says Chan.
He can complete two characters a day, depending on their complexity, and is aiming to digitize 6,000 characters.
Chan says his project is geared at doing more than preserving a centuries-old writing style and that he sees himself as building on the work of previous generations.
“We are like co-creators of this design,” he says. He has named his typeface Beiwei Zansyu and hopes it will eventually be installed on phones and computers.
“I see Adonian’s (Chan’s) efforts in turning Beiwei Kaishu into a typeface as a form of historical preservation,” says Tam. “It’s more than waxing nostalgic to bygone eras — it’s reinterpreting and continuing its heritage in contemporary life.”
ARTS AROUND: Grandmother and grandson team up for art exhibit in Port Alberni – Alberni Valley News
The next art exhibit at Rollin Art Centre will feature local artist Pam Turner and her grandson, Rylan Bourne.
Bourne is a 14-year-old Grade 10 student at Victoria High School, while Turner is a happy, proud grandma. This will be her first art show in 17 years.
The show is titled “INTRO: RETRO” and is a collection of abstract painting and acrylic on canvas, wood panels and collaged paper. The exhibit begins Oct. 7 and runs until Oct. 31.
LAST CHANCE FOR “TOGETHER”
“Together” is a very thought-provoking art display that touches upon today’s current events.
Five local artists—First Nations artist Cecil Dawson, Allen Halverson, Nigel Atkin, Lori Shone-Kusmin and Jennifer Taylor—collaborated, to create a truly spectacular show that touches upon significant social issues and features First Nations paintings, surfboard designs, carved river otters, drawings, cedar paddles and so much more.
You only have until the end of this month to see this magnificent exhibit, as it ends Oct. 2.
MYSTERY BAG OF BOOKS
Mystery bags of books are back at the Rollin Art Centre!
Due to COVID-19, we did not hold our annual giant book sale fundraiser in May, but now you can purchase a mystery bag of books and help out the Rollin Art Centre. You won’t know what is in the bag until you get it home—surprise!
For just $20, you will get 10 books, all in the same genre. The genres are fiction, romance, fantasy, mystery, pre-teen chapter books (e.g. Nancy Drew) and children’s books.
Bags are now available at the Rollin Art Centre. Get yours now because they sell out fast!
DONATE BOTTLE RETURNS
Here is an easy way to help with much needed funds for the Rollin Art Centre. Donate all your empty bottles at our local bottle depot (3533 Fourth Avenue).
When you return your bottles, our account is #E100093. Mention that you are donating to the Community Arts Council. Yes, it’s just that easy.
ANNUAL BOOK SALE
The news is out – we have a new venue for this year’s annual giant book sale!
We need your help, especially this year, to help raise much-needed funds. Mark your calendars for Friday, Nov. 6 (6-8 p.m.) and Saturday, Nov. 7th (9 a.m. to 3 p.m.), when the Community Arts Council will be holding its biggest fundraiser of the year with our annual giant book sale at the Alberni Athletic Hall.
This year promises to be the best year yet, with thousands of wonderful books and all the space we will have to spread out for more selections.
Due to all the generous amount of book donations, we will no longer be accepting book donations for this year’s book sale.
SAFETY PROTOCOLS IN PLACE
The Rollin Art Centre is open from Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. COVID-19 safety protocols are being followed to assure your safety during this pandemic. There will be no admittance without a face mask. The Rollin Art Centre will also have hand sanitizing, a limited number of patrons and directional signage to follow.
Please entre through our upper landing door only. Stop by the gallery to view our current art exhibit, check out our gift shop or just say hello.
CHAR’S PRESENTS ZOOM
Second and last Wednesday of each month, 7 p.m. (virtual doors 6:30 p.m.), virtual Alberni Valley Words on Fire.
Visit www.charslanding.com for more information.
Melissa Martin is the Arts Administrator for the Community Arts Council, at the Rollin Art Centre and writes for the Alberni Valley News. Call 250-724-3412. Email: email@example.com.
The divide between art and sports can be vast, but sometimes art and sports have been friends – CBC.ca
Hey guys! You know those movies from the ’80s, where the jock picks on the skinny kid with glasses — or the other way around, where the cool art kids treat the guy on the hockey team like a goon?
The divide between art and sports has been vast. So today, let’s talk about a few examples where art and sports have been friends.
Matthew Barney is an American artist who’s made epic, feature-length films with massive props. A lot of people might call his work dance, but here’s a good way of breaking it down. Barney used to be a jock — a football player, to be exact. And he made much of his early work, called Drawing Restraint, about the strong connection between the physical exertion needed for athleticism and the creative drive necessary to make an actual mark, whether it’s on a canvas or a bedroom wall.
In all the different versions of this series, he attached himself to bungee cords or made his studio into a rigorous obstacle course, making it an incredible physical feat just to make a single short line on a surface.
Why do this? Barney was making a comparison between what it takes to be an artist and what it takes to be an athlete. We have this tendency to see athleticism as disciplined and ordered, where art is unrestrained and free. But Barney was making it clear that both are forms of expression that require control and letting yourself go.
That’s an example of where an athlete brought his physicality into the art studio, but what about art that simply celebrates sports and tries to close the divide between the two worlds?
Thierry Marceau, a performance artist from Montreal, takes on many famous people’s personas to try to give us a look into their world. And I’m not talking about an impersonation — he becomes them, performing critical moments from their lives and taking on critical elements of their personality.
When he did this recently with Wayne Gretzky, he called up not only what was mesmerizing about the young hockey hero, but how his physical genius invigorated everybody around him, particularly Edmonton, the town that grieved his loss to LA and still celebrates him today. This is art about sports, or at least about an athlete, and the symbolic meaning an athlete can have for a town.
For artist Esmaa Mohamoud, sports become a tool to tell stories of Black identity. They also become the core for her art — like in Glorious Bones, where she uses 46 repurposed football helmets covered in an African wax batik print, calling up both the history and sacrifice of Black athletes over generations of football and the beauty of the sport itself.
In Blood and Tears Instead of Milk and Honey, the footballs themselves are stained black and lie still on black astroturf — like a memorial, or a tribute, to the sport that’s meant so much to North Americans.
And in One of the Boys, she incorporates basketball jerseys into epic swirling gowns, calling up the inextricable connection between fashion and basketball, while she points to some of the ideas around gender that are always part of the history of sport.
Why is there such a divide between the art studio and the football field? Here’s an idea: traditionally — and I’m talking ancient Greece here — sports were an arena to perform gender, to build notions of virility and strength. And maybe art has been more receptive to those whose ideas of both gender and physicality were a little more fluid. Maybe sports, which often requires team thinking, has been seen as a bit at odds with individual thinking.
Each of these disparate practices informs the other. Athleticism is creative. It requires intellect, lateral thinking and incredible mental patience — just watch tennis finals and you’ll see that everything from Serena Williams’s outfits to her serve involve a high level of intellect and creativity, not to mention an incredible performance. And art, on its side, requires a physicality, patience and drive that rivals anything that happens during practice.
Who’s someone you can think of that brings art and sport together? Send me a line here at CBC Arts and together, perhaps we can stop one kid from getting pushed into their locker at lunch or let another get through the day without being called a meathead.
See you next time for more Art 101.
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