AKAA – Also Known As Africa is the first contemporary art and design fair focused on Africa in France And reinforce its commitment to showcasing contemporary art from Africa and the diaspora.
Decoexplorer following our commitment to contemporary African art, are delighted to announce that the 2020 edition of AKAA will take place exceptionally this year, under the glass roof of the Atelier Richelieu, in the Palais-Royal district, from 13 to 15 November. This 5th edition features twenty-one exhibitors from France, other European countries and Africa, yet one American curator,
AKAA is the only fair in France to spotlight artists working on this market and has to develop something here even if it’s smaller than 1-54 in London
The fair, redesigned in this exceptional context, will therefore offer a more intimate format to welcome exhibitors and visitors in the best conditions and to refocus on the sustainability of a market in full development. Access to AKAA will be by invitation only. The dialogue and the relationship between the gallery and its clientele will be privileged, in order to favour networking and projects for artists, and to continue to strengthen the market of contemporary African art in Paris.
Several highlights and meetings will be offered throughout the fair to enrich the visiting experience.
“I would be very happy to integrate those kinds of [higher calibre] artists and the more established we get, the more feasible it would be to get the participation of those [more renowned] galleries,” says Victoria Mann, the founder of AKAA.“It’s a long-term process. The idea is to open up the fair to other contemporary art scenes in the Middle East and Latin America that are in one way or another connected to the African continent because I don’t think that having a strictly African art fair is sustainable.”
Affordable discoveries by upcoming artists are aplenty from collages by Helina Metaferia, born in the US to Ethiopian parents, and mixed media works by the Bahamas-born, London-based Alexandria Robinson, both at Nomad Gallery (Brussels), to Ugandan artist Ocom Adonias’s charcoal drawings on newspaper collages at Afriart Gallery, Kampala.
Yet some dealers have suggested that AKAA could benefit from being held during Fiac in October and needs to attract more serious collectors to enable more expensive works to be sold. “Unlike 1-54 and Art Lagos, AKAA is missing premiere branding and if the audience isn’t looking for big prices, it’s difficult for the galleries to break even so it needs to work harder to attract collectors from other European cities such as Amsterdam and Berlin,” says Daudi Karungi from Afriart Gallery.
AKAA will return to the Carreau du Temple for its sixth edition in November 2021
This exhibition, featuring more than 100 pieces and curated by Luis Puelles and Lourdes Moreno, explores how masks changed the representation of the human figure in modern art. Initially having a traditional, festive use linked to carnivals and fancy-dress costume, which lingered on in early avant-garde art in depictions of characters from the Commedia dell’arte, masks came to be identified with the grotesque in Goya’s work and emerged as a reference for portraying the face in modern art as a result of the influence of ethnographic masks of non-European cultures in the early 20th century.
Mirroring the sequence of a metamorphosis, the exhibition examines how masks were used in art as something absolute, beyond their well-known traditional associations with rituals, magic, the theatre and costume, showing how they went from being objects to artistic images. It traces the evolution of masks from physical objects –tangible elements placed over faces to conceal or replace them – to the gradual abandonment of the presence behind them, eventually leading to their loss of materiality and independence from the face and, ultimately, to the merging of mask and face into a new and ambiguous identity in modern portraiture.
Supernatural masks. The artists of the early avant-garde period became increasingly interested in non-western ritual masks as sources of inspiration for shattering the codes of figurative representation and imbuing works with new meanings and varied nterpretations. Modern artists’ espousal of the aesthetic principles associated with the ‘primitive’ – simplicity, coarseness, spirituality, a hieratic appearance –marked the abandonment of the academic conventions of beauty and harmony and from then onwards the mask acted as a modern synthesis of the human face.
Over the course of history artists have turned to masks and fancy-dress costume as strategies for shaping new identities. Carnival celebrations are a paradigmatic example of the collective release of irrational urges through masks. They are a means of subverting the rules and giving free rein to the most basic instincts. We find similar strategies in the theatre, where characters wear masks and are protected by a physical barrier between reality and appearance, in a universe that combines the grotesque, the comic and caricature.
As the last link in the genealogical chain of the presence of masks in the complex modern identity, we find portraits where faces function as ‘inhuman’ masks, with no communicative depth. The triumph of subjectivity, the absence of dogmas and loss of interest in achieving likeness gave rise to a repertoire of identities that were ambiguous, fragmented, disfigured, alienated or concealed by makeup. These ‘faceless’ portraits are an appropriate expression of today’s contradictory society.
Bilingual catalogue published on the occasion of the exhibition
The catalogue, illustrated with 147 colour plates, includes texts by the exhibition curators Luis Puelles Romero, Professor of Aesthetics and Art Theory at the UMA, Lourdes Moreno, Director of the Carmen Thyssen Museum in Malaga, and contributions from the Museum’s curatorial team.
In the following links you can see two videos of the exhibition:
Museo Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Málaga From 28 July 2020 to 10 January 2021
Julio Gonzalez. Máscara austera. 1940
Walt Kuhn, Boy with chistera, 1948
Fanti doll, clearly related in form ton the Ashanti akua ba. It has been claimed that both types of doll are Ashanti, and that the round-headed type is worn when girls is desired and the rectangular-headed type when a boy is wanted, but in fact they are the work of different peoples.
This photograph was produced for the fashion magazine Vogue. Man Ray’s girlfriend, Kiki, a singer, actress and model, embodies the ideal of beauty at the time, a chalk white, symmetrical oval face and cherry mouth. Man Ray used the Ivorian Baule mask, probably a copy made for the tourism market, to lend this Western beauty ideal an exotic connotation. In addition, the upright mask seems to be more alive than the recumbent face. The photograph by Man Ray corresponds with the surrealist conception that collisions such as this disrupt everyday reality. The surrealists often used art from Africa and Oceania in undermining the European tradition. In doing so, they did not pay heed to the original context and function of these objects
Before the Second World War, black intellectuals who studied in Paris saw how European colonial powers suppressed African culture. Central to their thinking was a feasible, collective African identity, Négritude. In using this name, they changed a term with negative connotations, nègre, into a word that can express the value of black culture and history. The Négritude movement formed the basis of the magazine Présence Africaine and the “First Congress of Black Writers and Artists”, held in 1956 in Paris. Leading roles were played by the intellectuals Aimé Césaire, Alioune Diop, and Léopold Senghor. They placed great value on precolonial African traditions and art, while also applying modernist strategies in their work, such as alienation, fragmentation, and experimentation.
For black artists in Paris, it was shocking to see important African objects in museums which could scarcely still be found in African countries, a cynical consequence of colonial history. Présence Africaine, which is active to this day, offered a platform to intellectuals who wanted to give shape to a black self-awareness in the modern world, Or as its founder Diop put it, “Présence Africaine is open to the good will of all men (white, yellow, or black) who can help to define African originality and hasten its insertion into the modern world”.
Hassan Hajjaj straddles the divide not just between countries and cultures, but art and artisans. And it’s this unique mix of perspectives and disciplines that has made him arguably Morocco’s hottest current art export.
Hajjaj’s portrait photography, shown in galleries including London’s Somerset House and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, is created and framed using the products and skills of Marrakech’s artisans.
And while his real love are the everyday ‘heroes’ of the city – from friends and neighbours to gnaoua musicians and the henna artists of Djemaa el Fna – he’s also developed a celebrity following that’s seen Madonna, Cardi B and Will Smith sit for him over the past couple of years.
Hajjaj was born and grew up in the northern city of Larache before leaving Morocco for England aged 14 and quitting school a year later with no qualifications. He entered the London party scene and became a promoter turned streetwear designer, an aspect of his early career that still comes through in the exuberant colours, bold patterns and touchable textures of his work.
In 1989, he began taking photographs and at first his work was purely private. But in 1995, he returned to Marrakech for the first time in years and it was the start of his unique creative partnership with the city.
“I got back to London thinking I´d probably never go there again but something about the place kept calling me back, ‘he says. “The next thing I knew I was coming two or three times a year, but always I felt it was only because the city was inviting me. I didn’t want to be someone that came just to take, I wanted to be a part of the city, its life and its people – I wanted in some way to protect them.”
A recent addition to Marrakech’s buzzing art scene is housed in one of the great treasures of the city’s Art Deco heritage. A 1932 villa in Gueliz now houses the Comptoir des Mines gallery that showcases some of Morocco’s best artists. Created by respected gallerist Hicham Daoudi, who has a special focus on helping up-and-coming artists develop, the space hosts exhibitions that focus on weighty themes. Past works have looked at ‘Crossings’- an exploration of migration – and ‘African Poetries’ – a meditation on artistic melancholy.
The next is an Evgenya Petrova brochure for the Malaga Russian Museum Exhibition. It is a good choice to share with our followers a georgeous XX century Russian women art selection.
Antonina Gmurzynska was perhaps the first Western collector to show a deep and serious interest in the Russian art of the first decades of the 20th century, and her collection was very well known to art connoisseurs. Items from it have often been exhibited in various countries, and published in books, catalogues and albums.
For several decades now Krystyna Gmurzynska, daughter of Antonina, has been continuing and developing what her mother had started, and during this time the collection has, of course, changed. Some things are now in other hands, and some names and works that were unknown in the 1950s-1970s, when Antonina was collecting Russian art, became available and were acquired by Krystyna.
The theme of Female Artists in Russia does not form a special section as such in this collection. However, it turns out that quite a considerable number of exceptional artists in Russia were, in fact, women. Thus, Krystyna Gmurzynska’s collection provides a welcome supplement to the female theme displayed in this year’s exhibitions.
It includes works by artists who are rarely found elsewhere, such as Elena Guro (1877-1913), Xenia (1895(94?)-1955) and Maria Ender (1897-1942) and Anastasia Akhtyrko (1902-1968). Some female artists, such as Antonina Sofronova (1892-1966), are represented by a whole series of works that are known just by individual drawings in other collections. Many of the works in the Gmurzynska collection reveal unknown pages in the artistic careers of famous masters. Kazimir Malevich, for example, worked during the last few years of his life on the decoration of architectural structures. One of his faithful students and helpers was Anna Leporskaya, and together they produced a project for decorating the Red Theatre in Leningrad (1931-1932). Malevich’s concept consisted of an entirely new non-objective approach to decorating public spaces. In a letter from Malevich to Leporskaya his specific colouristic treatment is indicated with complete clarity. In this same letter we can see Malevich’s inflexible demand: if his idea was altered in any way he would abandon the project. The sketches for the decoration of the Red Theatre that are in the Gmurzynska collection, are extremely important illustrations of what the interiors could have looked like if the theatre had not burnt down in 1932.
This relatively small exhibition, showing a small part of the Gmurzynska collection that is devoted to female artists in Russia, displays a fitting complement to the Women Artists exhibition.
Wooden figures covered with brass or copper sheeting are placed by the BaKota over a package containing simple bones of outstanding ancestors. The form was developed to display as much of the valuable metal as possible. (Juan Gris made a copy of one in cardboard in 1922)
Figure from northern Nigeria have been made by a Mumuye. A remarkable feature of the style is the way in wich the arms and even the abdomen of one piece are used to enclose space within the sculpture.