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Africa makes a scene: Best contemporary art fairs of 2020 – Al Jazeera English

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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.

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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”.

Indigogo 4 (2018), by Stacey Gillian Abe [Courtesy of Stellenbosch Triennale] 

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. 

Carolle Benitah, Le Rêve des Amants

Carolle Benitah’s Le Reve des Amants is one of the works that will be on show at 1:54 [Courtesy of Galerie 127] 

“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.

Art X Lagos

Art X Lagos supports emerging artists by showing their work and awarding a prize to a promising up-and-comer [Courtesy of Art X Lagos] 

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.” 

Dak'Art, Senegal

The Dakar Biennale is West Africa’s pre-eminent art event [File: Carley Petesch/AP Photo]

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. 

Kelvin Haizel - BASICII6 IUB

Stellenbosch will hold its debut Triennale, including works from arts such as Kelvin Haizel [Courtesy of Stellenbosch Triennale] 

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. 

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Home + Away artwork opens in Vancouver’s Hastings Park

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A new art installation now towers over Vancouver’s Hastings Park fields in celebration of the city’s history of spectators and sports.

Home + Away is a sculpture by Seattle artists Annie Han and Daniel Mihalyo of Lead Pencil Studio, which opened Monday in the southeast end of the historic park.

It’s a 17-metre-tall structure that resembles a narrow set of bleachers — similar to the stands of the Empire Stadium, which stood on the site of the park from 1954 to 1993 and hosted The Beatles, among many others. It recalls a covered ski jump that stood there in the 1950s and the nearby wooden rollercoaster at the PNE.

The city says the public is invited to walk the stairs and sit on the benches.

“In addition to being visually striking, this artwork is intended to be ascended, sat on and experienced. It offers exciting experiences of height and views and provides 16 rows of seating for up to 49 people, making for a unique spectator experience when watching events at Empire Fields,” the city said in a release Monday.

The idea for the park to include public art was outlined in the Hastings Park “Master Plan,” first adopted by the city in 2010. The city says Han and Mihalyo first presented their design in 2015.

“It’s wonderful to see this piece realized within the context of such a well-used public space,” said Han.

Home + Away was inspired directly by the site history of spectatorship, and we hope it will connect Hastings Park users to that history and the majestic views of the environment for many decades to come,” added Mihalyo.

The artwork features a large light-up sign, in the style of a sports scoreboard, that reads “HOME” and “AWAY.”

 

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Bill Viola, Video Artist Who Established the Medium as an Integral Part of Contemporary Art, Dies at 73

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Bill Viola, whose decades-long engagement with video proved vital in establishing the medium as an integral part of contemporary art, died on July 12 at his home in Long Beach, California. He was at 73 years old. The cause was complications related to Alzheimer’s disease. The news of his passing was confirmed by James Cohan Gallery.

Viola’s works are centered around the idea of human consciousness and such fundamental experiences as birth, death, and spirituality. He delved into mystical traditions from Zen Buddhism to Islamic Sufism, as well as Western devotional art from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance in his videos, which often juxtaposed themes of life and death, light and dark, noise and silence. These explorations were achieved by submerging viewers in both image and sound with cutting-edge technologies for their time.

“I first used the camera and lens as a surrogate eye, to bring things closer, or to magnify them, to experiment with perception, to extend vision and make lengthy observations of simple objects,” Viola said in a 2015 interview. “Once you do that, their essence becomes visible. So I suppose I was always interested in the inner life of the world around me.”

Beginning in the 1970s, Viola created videotapes, architectural video installations, sound environments, electronic music performances, flat panel video pieces, and works for television broadcast—all of which expanded the scope of the medium and established Viola as one of its most notable practitioner.

Video still of a man diving into water that has been reversed. The image is mostly black and teal.

In 2003 the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York; Tate, London; and the Centre Pompidou in Paris jointly acquired Bill Viola’s 2001 three-channel video installation Five Angels for the Millennium.

Photo Kira Perov/©Bill Viola Studio

Bill Viola was born in 1951. He grew up in Queens and Westbury, New York, and attended P.S. 20 in Flushing, before receiving his BFA in experimental studios from Syracuse University in 1973. There, he studied with visual art with the likes of Jack Nelson and electronic music with Franklin Morris.

Following his graduation, between 1973 to 1980, Viola studied and performed with composer David Tudor in the music group Rainforest, which later became known as Composers Inside Electronics. He also worked as technical director at the pioneering video studio Art/tapes/22 in Florence, Italy from 1974 to 1976. During that time he encountered the work of other seminal video artists like Nam June Paik, Bruce Nauman, and Vito Acconci.

Viola was subsequently an artist-in-residence at New York’s WNET Thirteen Television Laboratory between 1976 to 1983, wherein he created a series of works that premiered on television. He traveled to the Solomon Islands, Java, and Indonesia to record traditional performing arts between 1976 and 1977. Later that year, Viola was invited to show work at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, by cultural arts director Kira Perov, with whom he married and began a lifelong collaboration.

He was appointed an instructor in advanced video at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California in 1983. He was the Getty Research Institute scholar-in-residence in Los Angeles in 1998 and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2000.

In 1985, Viola received with a Guggenheim Fellowship for fine arts, and later that decade, in 1989, he was awarded the MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship. His work was also featured in some of the world’s most notable exhibitions, including Documenta VI in 1977, Documenta XI in 1992, the 1987 and 1993 editions of the Whitney Biennial, and the 2001 Venice Biennale.

In 1995, he represented the United States at the 46th edition of the Venice Biennale. For the pavilion, Viola produced the series of works “Buried Secrets,” including one of his most known works The Greeting, which offers a contemporary interpretation of Pontormo’s oil painting The Visitation (ca.1528–30). The Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin and New York’s Guggenheim Museum commissioned the digital fresco cycle in high-definition video, titled Going Forth By Day, in 2002.

Viola’s work was the subject of a major 25-year survey at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1997, which subsequently toured internationally. His work has been the subject of major museum retrospectives in the years since, including at the Grand Palais in Paris (in 2014), the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence (2017), the Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain (2017), and the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia (2019), as well as an exhibition pairing his work with that of Michelangelo at the Royal Academy of Art in London in 2019.

Viola is survived by his wife Kira Perov, who has been the executive director of his studio since 1978, and their two children.

“One thing that’s very exciting about video that has turned me on since I first saw this glowing image way back in 1970 is that it can be so much,” Viola said in a 1995 with Charlie Rose on the occasion of this US Pavilion at the Biennale. “Furthermore, what’s really exciting is I don’t think it’s been since really the Renaissance where artists have been able to use a medium that one could say is the dominant communication form in society.”

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Couple’s winning art projects adorn overpass

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Annabelle Harvey and Corbin Elliot are partners: in life, love, and art. Thanks to their creative pursuits, now they are also joined in the recognition of their work along the Lakeshore overpass.

The City of North Bay, in collaboration with the Public Art Advisory Committee (PAAC), recently held an event to acknowledge the successful applicants for the Lakeshore Drive overpass banner project. This initiative features 14 artworks created by local artists, highlighting the ongoing commitment to bringing public art to the community and celebrating local talent. The banners were installed early last week.

On behalf of PAAC, Katie Bevan noted that 71 submissions were received for the banner art project. “Selecting just 14 artworks from such outstanding submissions was no small feat. It truly highlights the incredible creativity within our community — and it’s only growing.”

Bevan acknowledged all who submitted their work and congratulated the 14 winners:

  • Caitlin Daniel
  • Corbin Elliot
  • Adam Fielder
  • Ian Gauthier
  • Ruby Grant
  • Annabelle Harvey
  • Penny Heather
  • Robert Johannsen
  • Robyn Jones
  • Gerry McComb
  • Victoria Primeau
  • Tessa Shank
  • Rana Thomas
  • Claudia Torres

“This is the first time I’ve participated in something city-wide, and I’ve been really interested in getting more involved in the art community,” said Harvey, a teacher by vocation when not helping to beautify North Bay. “I’ve worked a lot with the WKP Kennedy Gallery and I’ve been putting in submissions for some of their group shows. So, this is a cool opportunity to try something new. This is the first time I have done digital work. Usually, I like painting and collage. So I was interested just to try something new.”

In September 2023, public art gained more prominence in North Bay as 12 pieces by eight local artists selected by the Public Art Advisory Committee were placed on aluminum panels mounted onto the public buildings in both Champlain and Sunset parks.

Harvey’s partner Elliot is an emerging artist and a Fine Arts graduate from Nipissing University who says his passion for bringing his vision to life has only grown, thanks, in part, to these public art initiatives.

“There is so much opportunity to have a lot of different public art in different spaces,” he says. “So, when I saw that there was a variety of different artists and voices being accepted, of course, I wanted to have my vision out there in the city, to make my mark and be a part of that kind of trajectory of building the art scene within the city.”

The couple share a studio space, often working on separate projects at the same time while collaborating with encouragement and ideas.

“We are working on different mediums, a lot of the time,” Elliot said. “We have our own corners set up in the studio and I’ll usually be on my easel and Annabelle will be doing something…”

Harvey picked up his thought, “I’m usually at my desk doing pottery, jewellery, collage — I do a lot of different things.”

2024-07-12-lakeshore-overpass-banner-art-elliot-harvey-2-campaigne
Couple Annabelle Harvey and Corbin Elliot each earned a spot among the 14 winning banner art projects. Stu Campaigne/BayToday

For Harvey, working so closely together is her “favourite part, especially watching his creative process.”

Elliot added, “I think I’m more non-verbal as I’m creating. I often hear you saying, ‘Oh, I think I like this.'”

Both have active Instagram pages featuring their artwork, Harvey’s can be found here, and Elliot’s here.

Elliot has a show at the WKP Kennedy Gallery, entitled “Upon a Star,” opening Sept. 13. “I’ll have my own solo exhibition. I typically work in painting. I have a big body of work with paintings,” he said.

The City of North Bay and PAAC encourage everyone to take a moment to appreciate these works of art when passing by the overpass.

Harvey and Elliot are thrilled about the banner art project.

“It’s like seeing your vision come to life. We’ve had lots of friends, even before we saw them today say excitedly, ‘I saw your work on the overpass,’ it’s just a proud moment to have so many eyes on our work.”

 

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