Thursday, September 2, 2010

"The Global Africa Project" at the Museum of Arts and Design this fall

An unprecedented exhibition exploring the broad spectrum of contemporary African art, design, and craft worldwide, The Global Africa Project premieres at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) this November. Featuring the work of over 60 artists in Africa, Europe, Asia, the United States, and the Caribbean, The Global Africa Project surveys the rich pool of new talent emerging from the African continent and its influence on artists around the world. Through ceramics, basketry, textiles, jewelry, furniture, and fashion, as well as selective examples of architecture, photography, painting, and sculpture, the exhibition actively challenges conventional notions of a singular African aesthetic or identity, and reflects the integration of African art and design without making the usual distinctions between "professional" and "artisan."

On view from November 17, 2010, through May 15, 2011, The Global Africa Project is co-curated by Lowery Stokes Sims, the Museum's Charles Bronfman International Curator, and Leslie King-Hammond, Founding Director of the Center for Race and Culture at the Maryland Institute College of Art. Visitors and scholars can track the development of the project and participate in an online discussion of key issues related to exhibition through an interactive and behind-the-scenes blog on MAD's website.

"The Global Africa Project charts important new territory in the field by actively looking beyond restrictions of traditional art historical groupings, including medium, geography, and artistic genre," states Holly Hotchner, the Museum's Nanette L. Laitman Director. "By many measures, this exhibition is entirely unprecedented and it is a landmark moment in our history. As a museum that has long challenged the hierarchies separating art, craft, and design, we are delighted to introduce these new explorations of contemporary African art and aesthetics."

The exhibition will showcase a diverse group of creators, including artists who are experimenting with the fusion of contemporary practices and traditional materials, and design collectives that are using their creative output as engines of local economic change. Featured artists and designers range from well-known figures such as Yinka Shonibare, Kehinde Wiley, and Fred Wilson; to fashion designer Duro Olowu, who is an important presence in the London fashion scene, and Paris-based Togolese/Brazilian designer Kossi Aguessy, who has collaborated with Renault, Yves Saint Laurent, Cartier, and Swarovski; to the Gahaya Links Weaving Association, a collaborative of Hutu and Tutsi women working in traditional basketry techniques in Rwanda. The Global Africa Project will be accompanied at MAD by a special installation, Are You a Hybrid?, curated by designer Stephen Burks. Exploring the impact and influence of Africa on contemporary design, it will be on view from February through April 2011. The installation is part of the MADProjects exhibition series, which explores emerging trends and innovations in the design world.

“Given the nomadic, even migratory, nature of artistic careers today, the interesting challenges of presenting an exhibition like The Global Africa Project are indicated in its very title,” stated curator Lowery Stokes Sims. “The exhibition addresses important questions of how these designers, craftsmen, and artists grapple with issues of commodification in art production, and the meaning and value of art in contemporary society.” 

“No longer are these artists viewed as part of the periphery of the main stream art world," Leslie King-Hammond added. “This work redefines a new center of creativity and innovation for the twenty first century.” 

In order to present the various dimensions of the work of African artists and artisans worldwide, The Global Africa Project will be organized around several thematic ideas: the phenomenon of cultural fusion; promoting competition on the creative global scene; fostering the use of local materials; supporting artisans and craftsman; and impacting the economic and social condition of local communities. In addition to providing a broad framework for the exhibition’s organization, these themes will encourage The Global Africa Project’s audiences to discern how global African artists grapple with the commodification of art production and the meaning and value of art in society—an increasingly significant issue for nations in a rapidly changing global context.

Source: Museum of Arts and Design website
Image: "Sweet Grass Basket" by Mary A. Jackson (1999)

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