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Modern African Art : A Basic Reading List

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1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair. 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair: 2013 London: Art Africa, 2013. 87pp. illus. (color). N7380.O54 2013 AFA. OCLC 890004063.

In 2013, 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair was launched in London. African art joined the realm of art fairs around the world. (The ‘54’ represents the number of African countries). Seventy-two artists were represented by seventeen galleries. A forum for discussion about the state of contemporary African art accompanied the fair.



1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair. 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair: 2015. London: Art Africa Ltd., 2015. 170pp. illus. (color). N7380.O54 2015b AFA. OCLC 929906367.

In 2015, 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair spread its wings to New York with a selection of artworks shown in May. Sixty-six artists were represented by sixteen galleries. The main London event in October expanded to 134 artists presented by 38 galleries and art centers. It was also announced that 1:54 would change from an annual to a biannual event.

A separate catalog was published for the New York edition of 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair: 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair: 2015. London: Art Africa Ltd., 2015. 170pp.).



1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair. 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair: 2014. London: Art Africa Ltd., 2014. 1 volume (unpaged). illus. (color). N7380.O54 2014 AFA. OCLC 908168522.

Year two of 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair witnessed an expansion of the number of galleries and art centers on the continent and off that exhibited—twenty-nine. This meant that more artists were represented—106. The concurrent forum was again organized by Koyo Kouoh.



Africa now. Seoul, Korea: Seoul Museum of Art, 2014. 203 pp. illus. (color), bibl. refs. Text in Korean with English translation. N7380.5.A3744 2014 AFA. OCLC 934816135.

Africa now is the first major exhibition of contemporary African art in Korea. For the Korean audience, Africa now engages Western-oriented ideas and the African diaspora as part of the global culture. Participating artists include: John Akomfrah, Yinka Shonibare, Chris Ofili, Nick Cave, Lyle Ashton Harris, Kevin Beasley, Kehinde Wiley, Theaster Gates, Hank Willis Thomas, Victor Ekpuk, Joël Andrianomearisoa, Anton Kannemeyer, Jodi Bieber, Nontsikelelo Veleko, Gonçalo Mabunda, Stephen Burks, Heath Nash, Ardmore Ceramic Art, Rachid Koraïchi, Linda Day Clark, and Ubuhle Beads. Includes catalog essays by Paul Gilroy, Suk-koo Rhee, Jihoon Kim, and Regina Shin.



Dak’art (Exhibition) (10th : 2012 : Dakar, Senegal). 10e biennale de l’art Africain contemporain = 10th Biennial of Contemporary African Art / conception du catalogue, Ousseynou Wade, Lucie Falque-Vert. Dakar, Senegal: Secrétariat general de la biennale des arts, 2012. 192 pp. illus. (chiefly color), portraits, bibliog. N5090.D13 D35 2012 AFA. OCLC 820373469.

Dak’art 2012, the 10th edition, valiantly tried to reach its Pan-African ideal—a few East African artists were invited. But the biennial remains a predominantly francophone and South African gathering. Interestingly, the African diaspora appears to have been side-stepped this year. Tribute exhibitions were presented for two Senegalese artists, Joe Ouakam (aka Issa Samb) and Papa Ibra Tall. Three guest artists were given solo shows: Peter Clarke (South Africa), Berni Searle (South Africa) and the late Goddy Leye (Cameroon). Also invited to mount a project was the Spanish Institut Valencien d’Art Moderne. The primary international exhibition featured forty-two artists, all of whom are included in this catalog. The commentary and essays by curators and others are rather “Ho-hum,” although Yacouba Konate’s piece on Vohou-Vohou stands out from the pack.



Dak’art (Exhibition) (11th : 2014 : Dakar, Senegal). 11e biennale de l’art africain contemporain = 11th biennial of contemporary African art. Dakar: Secrétariat général de la biennale des l’arts, 2014. 375pp. illus. (chiefly color), portraits. N5090.D13D35 2014 AFA. OCLC 880133205.

Growing in size and still struggling for autonomy, Dak’art 2014 successfully presented 131 artists, not counting the ‘Off’ exhibitions. There were five official exhibitions: international artists (62); guest artists both African and non-African (32); a sculpture salon (17); “green art” outdoor environmental-themed art (7); and homage to three elder artists. Also includes short essays by the “commissioners” (curators) and other art critics and writers.


Dak’art 2010 (9th : 2010 : Dakar, Senegal). Dak’art 2010: 9ème biennale de l’art africain contemporain = 9th Biennial of contemporary African art. Dakar: Secrétariat general de la biennale des arts, 2010. 190pp. illus. (color), bibl. refs. Text in French and English. N5090.D13D35 2010 AFA. OCLC 640112702

Although well established in the firmament of global biennales, Dak’art reveals its existential angst in the self-reflexive essays by curators and critics. “To exist or perish,” “a gamble with the future,” “stakes and challenges,” “transplant or adaptation of a model?” Twenty-six artists featured in the main exhibition, all new to Dak’art. With tribute to the past, nine previous Dak’art grand prize winners were given an exhibition, following the theme of retrospection - - Fatma Charfi, Mansour Ciss Kanakassy, Viyé Diba, Moustapha Dime, Mounir Fatmi, Abdoulaye Konaté, Ndary Lo, Michèle Magema, and Zerihun Yetmegeta.


Dak'art (Exhibition) (12th : 2016 : Dakar, Senegal). La cité dans le jour bleu = the city in the blue daylight / editor, Simon Njami. Bielefeld: Kerber Verlag, 2016. 2 volumes. illustrations (chiefly color). Text in French and English. N5090.D13 D35 2016 AFA. OCLC 950472087.

The 12th edition of the Dak’art biennial, curated by Simon Njami, featured sixty-one artists—each showcased in this Volume 1 (of the 2-volume set).



Rencontres africaines de la photographie (9th : 2011 : Bamako, Mali). For a sustainable world: Rencontres de Bamako, African photography biennial, 9th edition. Paris: Institute français; Bamako, Mali: Malian Ministry of Culture; Arles: Actes Sud, 2011. 389pp. illus. (some color). OCLC 780937988. TR115.R43 2011 AFA.

Now established as Africa’s photography biennale, Rencontres africaines de la photographie in 2011 chose the theme “For a sustainable world.” The heart of the encounters was “The Pan-African Exhibition,” featuring 55 photographers. Seven monographic exhibitions showcased: David Goldblatt, Abdoulaye Barry, Kiripi Katembo, Nii Obodai, George Osodi, Nyaba Leon Ouedraogo, and Philippe Bordas. Additional sections pay tribute to Tunisian artists and Egyptian actors of the Arab Spring; a memorial to Goddy Leye; photographs in the Sindika Dokolo Collection; and several adjunct photo workshops.



The Divine Comedy: heaven, purgatory and hell revisited by contemporary African artists / editor, Simon Njami. Bielefeld: Kerber, 2014. 375pp. illus. (chiefly color), bibl. refs. N7380.5.G68813 2014 AFA. OCLC 876006935.

An overly curated exhibition by Simon Njami based superficially on Heaven, Hell and Purgatory of Dante's Divine Comedy. The 14th-century Catholic Italian poet has little in common with 21st-century secular African artists.



The Global Africa Project / edited by Martina D’Alton. New York: Museum of Arts and Design; Munich: Prestel, 2010. 262 pp. illus. (chiefly color), bibliog. (p. 248-251). N7380.5.G56 2010 AFA. OCLC 630457118.

African art and aesthetics have gone global as this dizzying array of 21st-century art attests. African artists and designers and their counterparts in the diaspora are featured in this 2010 exhibition at New York’s Museum of Arts and Design. The catalog and the exhibition are jam-packed with works by well-known, lesser known, and unknown artists. Design and fashion feature prominently, as do recycling and appropriation. Curators are Lowery Stokes and Leslie King-Hammond.

The exhibition Global Africa Project was reviewed by Sandrine Colard in African arts (Los Angeles) 45 (1) spring 2012, pages 86-87; by Barbara Pollack in Art news (New York) 110 (2) February 2011, page 102. The exhibition was critiqued by Glenn Adamson, "Tsunami Africa," Art in America (New York) 99 (3) March 2011, pages 67-72. Curator Lowery Stokes Sims’ interview by Elizabeth Gwinn is published in Studio (New York: Studio Museum in Harlem) winter-spring 2011, pages 50-53.



Who knows tomorrow / Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, nationalgalerie ; edited by Udo Kittlemann, Chika Okeke-Agulu and Britta Schmitz. Cologne; London: Walther Königm 2010, 629pp. illus. (pt. color), maps, bibl. refs. N7380.W46 2010 AFA. OCLC 646401385.

This catalog was published to accompany the exhibition held at the Berlin National Gallery, June 4-September 26, 2010. Richly illustrated, the catalog reflects on contemporary Africa and its cultural landscape through the lens of colonial history, using literary and scientific texts and essays. The exhibition included installations at four locations of the Nationalgalerie by five African artists: El Anatsui, Zarina Bhimji, António Ole, Yinka Shonibare MBE, and Pascale Marthine Tayou.