Rock stars and royalty in Newark
Hassan Hajjaj and George Osodi will be kicking off the Newark Museum’s two-year celebration of a centenary of collecting of African art. The Newark Museum is famous for its varied collection which encompasses among other things a growing African art department as well as a Tibetan collection, which is considered one of the best in the world. It also had, till August 2010, a micro-zoo with small animals.
The Nigerian photographer Osodi is known for spending four years documenting the Delta State and ‘the exploitation of its riches’, but in this exhibition he’ll be showing a series of forty, near life-size, portraits which feature regional rulers of modern-day monarchies throughout the country.
Hassan Hajjaj, an old friend of TRACE, and recently profiled on TRUE, will be showing a video installation My Rock Stars Experimental. It features people who have inspired him including Muneera Rashida and Sukina Abdul Noor, two British-Jamaican Muslim women, who make up the hip-hop dup ‘Poetic Pilgrimage’. There’s the musician Mandisa Dumezweni (pictured above); Jose James, a 37-year-old jazz and hip-hop singer from New York; Helen Parker-Jayne a Nigerian singer-songwriter who calls herself ‘The Venus Bushfires’, and is a heavy Twitter user; as well as the London-based Moroccan musician Simo Lagnawi, a renowned performer of Gnawa (traditional African-Islamic spiritual songs and rhythms).
First African curator at the Venice Biennale
Nigerian-born curator, critic, editor, writer and Director of the Haus der Kunst, Okwui Enwezor will be curating the 2015 Venice Biennale. As stated in his introduction to the 56th edition of the exhibition, his vision for exhibition is political: ‘How can artists, thinkers, writers, composers, choreographers, singers, and musicians, through images, objects, words, movement, actions, lyrics, sound bring together publics in acts of looking, listening, responding, engaging, speaking in order to make sense of the current upheaval?’
There will be artists and collectives from all across the African continent including Algeria, Cameroon, the DRC, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa and Tunisia. Get to Venice to see Marlene Dumas, Wangechi Mutu and Kay Hassan.
Enwezor is also curating Making Africa: A Continent of Contemporary Design at the Vitra Design Museum in Germany. 120 artist and designers will be showcased and it promises to be a remarkable exhibition. The photograph below is in the exhibition (Pierre-Christophe Gam, ‘The Kingdom of Taali M’, 2012)
Light at the end of the tunnel for NYC’s Africa Centre?
Michelle D. Gavin has been hired to oversee the construction of the Africa Centre after a special request from Hadeel Ibrahim, daughter of Mo Ibrahim, and co-chairmain of the board alongside Chelsea Clinton. The luxury flats in the building at the northeast corner of Fifth Avenue and 110th Street have all been filled but the new space to be devoted to the Africa centre remains bare and without purpose (there have been six postponed launches!). Gavin was US ambassador to Botswana for three years and worked as a senior director for Africa on the National Security Council.
She’ll have a tough job finishing the construction budgeted at 100 million dollars and finessing the centre’s hybrid role as cultural outpost, public policy institute and international business forum. Fab 5 Freddy, the artist, filmmaker and hip-hop pioneer, has been appointed chief creative consultant
Saatchi’s Pangaea exhibition is an indifferent mass
The latest exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery is a sequel to their 2014 exhibition Pangaea I showcasing new art from Africa and Latin America. You’ll be able to see photography from Beninese Leonce Raphael Agbodjélou, Mozambican Mário Macilau and Ghanaian Ibrahim Mahama. Zoe Pilger, art critic at the Independent, was luke-warm to say the least: ‘Most of the work by the 18 different contemporary artists from two very different continents was underwhelming.’ She did call single out Ethiopian artist Ephrem Solomon’s painted woodcuts as ‘promising’.
Drake curating at Sotheby’s
Rapper Drake will be teaming up with the auction house on their upcoming exhibition of contemporary works by black artists. Drake isn’t well known – like Jay-Z or Kanye West – for his interest in the visual arts and, as far as we know, the collaboration only came about because he’s friends with someone in the contemporary art department. He’ll be choosing tracks to accompany work by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kara Walker and Rashid Johnson; whatever happens, it will be a sellout. From the 28th April to 12 June.
Art in the Diaspora
While in London we’re already gearing up for the third edition of 1:54 in Somerset House in October, New York City is going to experience the contemporary African art fair for the first time. The ’1:54 Pop-Up’ will be held from 15 to 17 May 2015 at Pioneer Works in Brooklyn to coincide with Frieze New York. There’ll be 15 galleries and the Forum will be curated by Koyo Kouoh founding artistic director of RAW Material Company, a centre for art, knowledge and society in Dakar.
And let’s finish off with some more Hassan Hajjaj (Mr Toliver, 2010, from the Taymour Grahne Gallery):