Contemporary African Art enjoys the spotlight with big name international institutions, including Tate Modern and Art Dubai 2013, taking interest.

As African art is being exhibited internationally, Art Radar wondered what is actually going on in the various countries of Africa. Here is an overview of seven innovative art spaces showing contemporary works from the vast continent.

Meschac Gaba, 'Art and Religion' From Museum of Contemporary African Art 1997–2002. Installation at Kunsthalle Fridericianum, Kassel, 29 August – 15 November 2009 Photo: Nils Klinger  © Meschac Gaba

Meschac Gaba, ‘Art and Religion’, 1997 – 2002, from Museum of Contemporary African Art. Installation at Kunsthalle Fridericianum, Kassel, 29 August – 15 November 2009. Photo by Nils Klinger © Meschac Gaba.

African art at the Tate

The Tate Modern kicked off a two-year programme of activities focused on Africa at the beginning November 2012, with Meschac Gaba’s installation Museum of Contemporary African Art on view at the gallery until the end of September 2013. With this work, the artist comments on the absence of a museum of contemporary African art.

Tate director Sir Nicholas Serota, talking to The Guardian, confirms that the museum is taking steps to right the curatorial wrongs and oversights of the past, when acquisitions policies were based on centres of political, not to say colonial, power and influence:

We are recognising that we need to collect across the world. There is no one single centre for modern and contemporary art and it certainly isn’t London or New York.

Art Dubai on African Art

Art Dubai 2013, the seven-year old art fair in the MENASA (Middle East/North Africa/South Asia) region, featured an exhibition by Lagos-based curator Bisi Silva. With the theme of ‘cities in transition’, Silva focused on five independent art spaces located in West Africa, such as The Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA), Lagos, Nigeria and Espace doual’art, Doual, Cameroon. She worked collaboratively with the galleries’ artists to create exhibits for the fair.

Bisi Silva’s introduction of African art spaces inspired Art Radar’s following list of seven vibrant galleries throughout Africa that showcase contemporary work in the region.

Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos, Nigeria 

The Centre for Contemporary Art, in Lagos, Nigeria, founded in 2007, is an independent non-profit art organisation. According to their website, the CCA’s purpose is “to provide a platform for the development, presentation, and discussion of contemporary visual art and culture. It seeks to create new audiences and to prioritise media such as photography, film and video, performance and installation art which have been under-represented in Nigeria.”

Karo Akpokiere, 'Lagos Mass Transit', 2010, mixed media, 42 x 59.4 cm. Image courtesy CCA Lagos

Karo Akpokiere, ‘Lagos Mass Transit’, 2010, mixed media, 42 x 59.4 cm. Image courtesy CCA Lagos.

Besides exhibitions, CCA hosts lectures, seminars, screenings and workshops, “in addition, it encourages and promotes the professionalisation of art production and curatorship in Nigeria and West Africa collaborating with artists, curators, writers, theorists and national and international organisations,” as stated on their website.

Doual’ Art, Doual, Cameroon

Doual’ Art, located in Doual, Cameroon, is a non-profit organisation founded in 1991. Its purpose is to provide a space for Cameroon’s contemporary artists to meet, create, exhibit and promote their art.

Doual' Art space in Cameroon. Image courtesy

Doual’ Art space in Cameroon. Image courtesy

Doual’Art not only helps emerging and marginalised artists but also educates the public about the “urban aesthetic” via performances, concerts, exhibitions and training workshops. Through various programmes such as animation, theatre and photography, the art space tries to help out the most underprivileged of its community members.

Thought Pyramid Gallery, Abuja, Nigeria

Thought Pyramid Gallery, located in Abuja in Nigeria, fills the “gap between commercial galleries and traditional art institutions; spaces which allow artists and curators to innovate with shows that do not fit into the existing art market or framework,” explains the website.

Joseph Eze, Untitled, painting. Image courtesy Thought Pyramid.

Joseph Eze, Untitled, painting. Image courtesy Thought Pyramid.

Thought Pyramid Gallery collects, conserves, studies, and sells both modern and contemporary art of Africa. Additionally, they host performances, concerts, lectures, symposia and workshops. Their training programmes teach students how to work as arts administrators and their arts library contains a wide-range of art reference materials.

Raw Material Company, Dakar, Senegal

Dakar’s Raw Material Company, established in 2008, “is an art initiative unfolding within the realms of exhibition making, commissioning, knowledge sharing, and archiving of theory and criticism”, according to its website.

The gallery’s transdisciplinary programme, which includes “urbanity, literature, film, architecture, politics, fashion, cuisine, and diaspora” is motivated by the “firm belief in visual arts as a potent tool capable of shifting views and igniting engagement for art practice as a viable path for social and political transformation.”

Raw Material Company exterior. Image courtesy RMC.

Raw Material Company exterior. Image courtesy RMC.

The resource centre, Rawbase, “aims at establishing an extensive library and archive on contemporary art with an emphasis on African and Africa related practices.” Artist talks, classes, portfolio review sessions, symposia, lectures, various types of discussions and scholarly presentations are also billed as part of the programme.

Senegal's Raw Material Company interior. Image courtesy RMC.

Senegal’s Raw Material Company interior. Image courtesy RMC.

Besides the gallery and resource centre, there is a residency programme geared for artists, curators and writers who work in different media.

L’appartement 22, Morocco

L’appartement 22 (Apartment 22) was founded in 2002 by independent curator and Director of the Arab Museum of Modern Art, Qatar, Abdellah Karroum. The experimental space is geared for making specific works, developing emerging talents and introducing them to the international stage of contemporary art.

The door to L'appartement 22, the art space in Rabat, Morocco. Image courtesy L'appartement 22.

The door to L’appartement 22, the art space in Rabat, Morocco. Image courtesy L’appartement 22.

The first space of its kind in Morocco, L’appartement 22 has collaborated with many North African contemporary artists, including Adel Abdessemed, Mona Hattoum and Younes Rahmoum. In an interview with Nafas online magazine, Karroum explains the impetus for founding his art space:

Morocco has experienced significant cultural change over the last few years. The rapid development of new information technologies, especially the Internet, allows for an extensive access to culture in other countries around the world. Just the same, as a result of various structural factors, Morocco is still more of a consumer than a producer of culture. There is also a great lack of exhibiting and distributing possibilities for young artists. The few non-profit galleries are state-run and their programmes are not defined through serious art politics […] L’appartement 22 is the result of this situation.

Goodman Gallery, Capetown

Goodman Gallery say on their website that the gallery “is at the forefront of contemporary art in South Africa. Its focus is on artists – from South Africa, the greater African Continent, and other countries – who engage in a dialogue with the African context.”

William Kentridge, 'No, it is', 2012, Drawing, Water colour and coloured pencil on found pages on Velin arches, 400gsm, 31 x 36 cm. Image courtesy Goodman Gallery.

William Kentridge, ‘No, it is’, 2012, drawing, water colour and coloured pencil on found pages on Velin arches, 400 gsm, 31 x 36 cm. Image courtesy Goodman Gallery.

Established in 1966, the Goodman Gallery has two locations: Johannesburg and Cape Town. The gallery has a strong roster of both African and international contemporary artists such as Candice Breitz, Kendall Geers, William Kentridge and Sam Nhlengethwa.

Townhouse Art Gallery, Cairo

With the goal of making contemporary culture accessible without comprising critical integrity, Cairo’s Townhouse Gallery has since 1998 supported Egypt’s art scene through exhibitions, residencies, educational initiatives and outreach programmes.

The Townhouse's Factory Space is a converted paper factory  (650-square-meter), paper factory, used for performances, screenings, and concerts. Image courtesy Townhouse Art Gallery, Cairo.

The Townhouse’s Factory Space is a converted paper factory (650-square-meter), paper factory, used for performances, screenings, and concerts. Image courtesy Townhouse Art Gallery, Cairo.

Located in downtown Cairo off Tahrir Square, the Gallery features over twelve exhibitions a year of both emerging and internationally established artists, including Japan’s Naoya Hatakeyam and Egypt’s own Youssef Nabil.

Susan Kendzulak


Related Topics: globalisation of art, African artists, Africa

Related Posts:

Subscribe to Art Radar for more on new trends in contemporary art

By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *