…on African art in the international context.
JAF: At JAF’13, you spoke about the rise of digital connectivity in Africa and how this has assisted your own work in facilitating a wider conversation between Africa, the diaspora and the global community. What role do you think fairs, specifically the FNB Joburg Art Fair, play in this conversation?
BO: I for one think art fairs are super important and vital, especially with the globalisation of the art world. It is essential for galleries to widen the reach of the artists they represent beyond the local spectrum. Art fairs are key in reaching this new global market of private collectors, curators, museums and institutions, as well as awarding visibility and a market value for the artist.
JAF: Having been present at recent art fairs around the globe from Frieze to FIAC to Art Basel Miami, what, in your opinion are the latest trends in the representation and understanding of African art abroad?
BO: There has been a generational shift of artists from the continent breaking away from traditional artistic methods and representational subjects of what is considered ‘African art’ by Western standards and employing more experimental devices in creating work within the contemporary sphere yet retaining africanist aesthetic within their work. I have noticed a trend towards more inventive practices and not just within painting or sculpture but now more and more artists are now working with new media, film, performance and installation. Artists that come to mind include South African Kemang Wa Lehulere who engages in diverse media, including text, drawing and performance, Kenyan born Phoebe Boswell who combines digital technology to create drawings, animations and installations and Nigerian Njideka Akunyili who draws on photography and collage to construct her paintings which are crafted on paper, to name a few.
JAF: What are you looking forward to in 2014?
BO: High on my list is Dak’Art (Biennale de l’Art Africain Contemporain) opening in May in Dakar, Senegal. There are various exhibitions that I am looking forward to seeing such as Lorna Simpson’s retrospective at Baltic in Newcastle, England; curator Simon Njami’s Divine Comedy: Heaven, Hell, Purgatory revisited by Contemporary African Artists at MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt; and what I can only imagine will be an outstanding survey, artist Marlene Dumas’ The Image as Burden opening in September at Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and travelling to Tate Modern in 2015.
JAF: Who, in your opinion, are the rising names in African art?
BO: I would say specifically Contemporary African art, not just African art which could be confused with tribal art! There are so many fantastic artists but right now at this moment, I am thinking Angolan photographer Edson Chagas who won the Golden Lion at last year’s Venice. I am impressed with the work of Zimbabwean painter Virginia Chihota, as well as artist Meleko Mokgosi from Botswana, now based in Brooklyn New York. Working in conceptually innovative ways, Moroccan artist Yto Barrada is one of my particular favourites, as is, Addis Ababa-based Dawit Abebe with his ‘Schiele-Klimt’ like drawings.
Bomi Odufunade is writer and consultant at Dash & Rallo Art Advisory, an international consultancy specialising mainly in contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora. She advises on all aspects of establishing and building art collections, providing art consulting services for private art collectors and corporations. Her writings on art and the art market have appeared in a variety of publications. Previously, she worked at Thames & Hudson, Tate Modern and Haunch of Venison gallery in London. She is based between London, Paris and New York.