As I mentioned yesterday, last Saturday I had the opportunity to visit ARCO in Madrid. It was my first time there and the experience was quite overwhelming, not only because of the size of the exhibition – huge, impossible to see calmly on just one day – but for the fact that most of the show is organized by galleries and not by artist or theme, which makes you having to see the work of artists scattered in different places.
However, on the plus side, it needs to be noted that the African presence in ARCO was remarkable. In the most commercial part of the show for example, you could see the work both of African such as the Camerooniena Barthélémy Toguo , and of artists, such as the American photographer Phyllis Galembo , concerned with various aspects of African art and culture.
Barthélémy Toguo, 208 x 130 cm, 2005 (Photo ArtFacts )
Moreover, several Solo Projects (SP) within the fair, this is the gallery spaces devoted to one artist, were occupied by galleries and/or African artists. Here, for example, you could see the work of famous artists such as Romuald Hazoumé and his masks/portraits made of bottles of gasoline (here you can see an interview with the artist) or the great Chéri Samba .
Chéri Samba, Le partage du gros poisson, Acryl on Canvas 2001. 81 x 101 cm This painting was at ARCO – and I was tempted to ask about its price 😉
Also Casa Africa had facilitated the presence of two South African galleries, Afronova (Johannesburg) and Michael Stevenson ( Cape Town), who devoted their space Ghanaian artist Godfried Donkor and South African Nicholas Hlobo respectively.
Godfried Donkor, Browning madonna, Mixed media collage on paper, 2006
The most important representation of African artists, however, was within Arte inVisible (inVisible Art), organized by the Spanish Agency of International Cooperation and Development (AECID). This fifth edition of Arte inVisible, curated by Elvira Dyangani Ose , was vertebrated around the theme of the African city. The main part of Arte inVisible was undoubtedly the exhibition which showed the work of nine artists – Tiago Borges da Silva (Luanda, Angola, 1973); Ramon Esono (Nkoa-Nen Yebekuan, Mikomeseng Kie-Ntem, Equatorial Guinea, 1977); Donna Kukama (Mafikeng, South Africa, 1981), Maha Maamoun (Los Angeles, USA 1972), Michèle Magema (Kinshasa, DRC, 1977), Aïda Muluneh (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 1974); Emeka Ogboh (Enugu, Nigeria, 1977), Michael Tsegaye (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 1974); Billie Zangewa (Blantyre, Malawi, 1973) – all of whom reflected on the city, employing various techniques, from a video installation, the «soundscape», comics and photography. Here you can see the biography and work of individual artists. I had also the chance to chat with two of these artists (Billie and Ramon) and I hope to publish these interviews in the next issue of the journal Africaneando.
Michael Tsegaye, Untitled, Printing on paper
Besides the exhibition, Arte inVisible had created a documentation center where it was possible to consult various documents produced by groups, platforms and art centers that explore the need to connect art with life (and politics) in cities. The groups invited on this occasion were: L’Appartament 22 (Morocco); Kwani Trust (Kenya); ArtBakery (Cameroon), Center for Contemporary Art of East Africa (Kenya); DESTA For Africa (Ethiopia); Kër Thiossane (Senegal ) MUV’ART (Mozambique) and Kabako Studios (DRC). More information about these initiatives and links to their websites by clicking here.
The last part of the Arte inVisible program was its participation at the VIII International Forum of Contemporary Art Experts, and which, under the title «Cities we own, cities we belong to», various artists, writers, filmmakers shared their visions and ideas about the practices, spaces and artistic initiatives that are taking place in the continent (More here). On Saturday, for example, I attended lectures by Edgar Pieterse, and Fasil Giorghis, in addition to a very interesting round table attended by Jimmy Ngonga, Marion Louisgrand, Ntone Edjabe, Goddy Leye and Aïda Muluneh (pictured below, from left to right).
The visit to ARCO was a great opportunity to see first hand the work of these artists and listen to contemporary art experts to explain the new initiatives taking place in various parts of Africa and how they can change the relationship between people and cities in which they live.