MoMA/Hammer/LA/Cologne/Met Museum/Belgian Congo Copal 11.1.2015

MoMA/Hammer/LA/Cologne/Met Museum/Belgian Congo Copal 11.1.2015

Critique by Vincent Galen Johnson,  Lives and Works in Los Angeles, California

Vincent Johnson <vincentjohnsonart@gmail.com>

12:07 PM (0 minutes ago)

to Lanyartist

Updated 10:27AM Sunday 11.1.2015 re MoMA

Updated 9:56AM Sunday 11.1.2015 – re Belgian Congo Copal resin painting medium

Updated 8:57AM Sunday 11.1.2015

At the Hammer museum I saw something most interesting: In the traveling retrospective of a female Art Center MFA alum, I noticed that MoMA had acquired a six-part handwriting-as-drawing that is a work of Text-based art, culled from literature. The work had been in the artist’s graduate thesis show. I’m aware of museums seeking out the earliest examples of an artist’s work, and note that most of the work in the exhibition was not in major collections, public or private, but from the artist’s four powerhouse galleries, including Buchholtz, which means she passed the test of one of the supreme German cultural monocle examinations.

Many years ago, in reverie of the Buchholtz gallery’s presence, an artistic intervention by HAHA, made his apartment the site and space of exhibition, but through a glass window. You can read about this online.

The current Hammer retrospective artist’s career seems to have surged mostly recently, mostly upon her video works and digital media works, some of which prominently feature black characters.

Next month, another female Art Center MFA alum will have a video art retrospective, this will be at LACMA. The museum reports that the exhibition will occupy 20,000 sq. ft., the largest amount of floor space ever dedicated to a female artist exhibition there. I’m looking forward to this artist’s exhibition, and seeing what I had not seen in the past. I recall artists saying that her work made them get a headache, yet even then her career was one of the most ascendant in LA, based largely in Western Europe, specifically in Cologne and Dusseldorf, where the Ludwig Forum and K21 are among the 30 modern and contemporary art museums in the Nordheim-Westfalia region, which has the largest collection of these types of museums in the world.

As I have said many times before, it is also where over 100,000 art collectors reside; it is where Text Zur Kunzt is published and numerous art magazines are published – that is – except for those that have decamped for Berlin. It is a complete artistic universe, from bookstores to massive artist studios.

The Ludwigs both held full German doctor’s degrees in art history, and opened 13 different modern and contemporary museums in Western Europe. Although Cologne looks like an Ugly American city, it is not; it was the intellectual and artistic center of Western Europe. It is where the early 1980’s wave of German painters held sway – Immendorf, Kiefer, Richter, Baselitz, all who showed immense canvases on West Broadway in Soho. When one attends an art opening in Cologne, it is to attend the height of German fashion exhibition too.

Now Kiefer and Richter are riding most high, with Kiefer just having had a stunning retrospective at the Royal Academy in London, and will follow-up with one from his personal collection this December in Miami in the private collection space owned by the Margulies. My partner and I saw the absolute blowout Kiefer show at the R.A., which is modeled after the French Academy. Inside on the walls of the R.A. London – up high, are representational sculptures of Leonardo, Michelangelo, and so on – you get the picture. What is transmitted as well is the former relationship between state power and culture production.

As for Richter, whose stellar retrospective I also saw in London, but at the Tate Modern, just a few years ago, his market has reached over $1.2 billion in the past five years alone. As I’ve pointed out before, Richter invented a style he called Capitalist Realism while he was a student at the Dusseldorf Academy. He worked as a photorealist painter, and sold his works for not much. At one point he said he felt that he had painted himself into a corner by working against the International Style – Abstraction. He was at one point challenged to produce major abstract works, and did just that. It is this work that is his most luxurious, most commanding, rewarding, visceral, powerful.

Last, Anselm Kiefer lives in a castle. He has a driver; he dresses in 19th century landed gentry garb. The Dusseldorf Art Academy is the school which we used to look upon and dream – where artists were made to make their own paint, paint box, brushes, and every tool of the artist, taught by the giants of the German art scene. That historic and rigorous skill set training has not entered the LA art academy program, but its power to produce artists has indeed.

By the way, the New Objectivity exhibition of German art has come to LACMA, enjoy. Across the street from the Met is a similar exhibition at the Neu gallery. It’s my understanding that the son of one of German’s most prominent collectors is building a loan collection to be lent long term to LACMA; it will be composed of about a dozen artists – all men of European blood, all towering figures LA and German contemporary art.

There are recently created documentary films of both Kiefer and Richter working in their studios. Kiefer works in France, in an abandoned 300,000 sq. ft. department store that is his studio. His paint materials are mined from the French soil by a team of professionals, who then turn this into materials for making paintings.

In this context, is most rewarding to see the paintings by African Diaspora artist rise into the major gallery spaces and sell for immodest pricing, from MacArthur Binion, Jack Whitten, Ed Clark, and many more.

What is still not happening (and believe me I am looking) is the recuperation of Black Women Artists of the same generation as Barkley Hendricks, or Sam Gilliam, or whomever is in this class of black artists who experienced 40-50 year career delays.

9:56AM 11.2015 UPDATE

I’ve said this before – that LA, et al is part of the re-formation of the 20th century Paris/German art world and its economic and cultural benefactors Picasso & Matisse et. al. v . Duchamp et al. in legal terms, this re-emergent artworld decimated by WWII has been re-calibrated and reborn, by an unknown multiplier that dwarfs all past histories. No more selling a painting for a dozen eggs or a flash of the Parisian skirt now naked – who is also an artist that pays a male artist’s benefactors bill for an extravaganza of drinking and meals with all your male artistic world friends. Today, as in centuries past, many artists and other creatives and collectors, whose family became rich from slavery also take part now in this artistic paradise game, pay attention especially European collectors whose nation was major in the slave trade. Did I forget to mention the artworld universe that is enabled ana re0-enabled and thrives by and is paid for in advance by the rewards of 400 years of American slavery? This is what is called a “Trust Fund”.

“Keep a watchful eye” on the collectors in Brussels, the city that stripped the Congo of its material resources for the West to build its spectacular core buildings and its Royal Congo Museum. Brussels is the home of Magritte and more importantly, the creator of institutional critique at the genius level, not the ignorant peasant complainer level, Marcel Broodthaers, whose 2016 MoMA retrospective is being worshiped even before it is here. Brussels created Art Deco from raping the Congo. The wood in living Brussels buildings is from the Congo. Note that Broodthaers is my hero as he destroyed the equivalent of ARTFORUM through his arguments with them. That’s all I will say for now.

Colored/Negro/Black/Africa-American Artists – please read how Thomas McEvilley crushed MoMA’s utopia argument re how Modernism was created, in his several texts, the lead of which were letters and responses published in ARTFORUM. THIS LATER BECAME BOOKS. You already know how ELVIS rode the backs of Negro musical achievement to create his ART; MOMA’s 1984 PRIMITIVISM exhibition is the same ASTRONOMICAL gigantic lie.

10:27AM 11.1.2015 UPDATE

The Met acknowledges this in its current landmark “Kongo” exhibition. What it does not say but knows is that the raw materials from the Kongo were used to created Art Deco Art, based upon defamed Kongo imagery and Kongo raw materials. It also does not say that key elemental objects in the history of 20th century Modernism were created using Belgian atrocity Kongo Copal resin in its paintings; this is my research project on this material and its use that I presented in 2014 in Chicago. This Copal was thought to be the centuries sought missing element that was used by Jan Van Eyck to create paintings that looked like you were looking through water. A Polish aristocrat NY society painter named Frederick Taubes, who worked with U. Ill. chemists and Belgian National Laboratories, created the visionary version of this most sought after material in the early 1940’s. Taubes has 27 paintings in the Met. He was the most highly regarded representational painter of the European tradition of his time in NYC. Through my research, I am of the belief that not only Picasso and Pollock, and Le Corbusier, but untold numbers of other artists used Belgian Congo Copal resin in their painting materials, (from the late 19th century to at least 1970) as it was scientifically considered by paint chemists to be the super product of the age, due to its hardness and glass-like quality. Its primary use was in commercial house paint as it was a superior binder. The Getty held a symposium on its use. It was used in linoleum. It was used in mid century LP records. It was used in Konk hair cream. It was used premier art supplies in Europe and America. I have patent documentation of the major American corporations that used it. If you were an unaware Colored/Negro in say 1950/1960, your floor was covered in this linoleum; it was in your hair, and was in the paint on your walls, it ws in uyour LP’s; and it was the standard material used in the US and Britain for the first half of the 20th century. You were literally living and breathing and dancing through the biochemistry of the Kongo experience. MoMA is fully aware of this use; so is the Met and the Getty, and the Art Institute of Chicago; but there is no statement or research being done to show that Belgian Congo Copal painting resin is at the core of the creation of MODERNISM, just as the Art from the Congo is core to the Met’s collection. Picasso used this upscale house paint called Ripolin. I contacted several sources who said that Yes, it’s most likely that the premier house paint in France also used the premier resin – that from the Belgian controlled and defiled Congo. Note that over ten million Congo people were murdered by Belgium so that it could have wealth similar to the other European nations that committed similar atrocities. Congo Copal resin was most prized. In the 1940’s the NYTimes reported it selling at 60,000 bottles a year. Note that when the Congo attempted to free itself from Belgian rule, its first president was murdered by USA/British and Belgian rule.

Currently, the most historic art supply stores and Colour Men (the precursor to what we call art supply stores – which still exist in Europe) still sell Congo copal painting medium. This includes Sennilier, the most famed artist supply store in ART HISTORY – located directly across from the Louvre, which created the oil stick for Picasso, and sold to Van Gogh, et. al. A creative friend of mines in Europe made me aware of this. LeFranc & Bourgeoise in Paris (now LeFranc & Cie also see this product.)  I also uncovered this use by Grumbacher – and confronted their paint chemist and publicity department. Grumbacher took over the manufacture of Congo Copal resin paint.

Pay attention: Belgian Congo Copal Painting Resin was the most opulent artist material of its time. This was 1890-1970 at a minimum. Several other major American art supply stores used this resin and knew how it was sourced, including the F.W. Weber art supply company that started in the 19th century in Philadelphia. The papers of Weber are in the Getty Research Institute’s collection. Both Taubes and his counterpart and adversary Ralph Mayers were primary in teaching artists how to use the best art materials of the period. Yale holds the papers and research materials of Ralph Mayers. Both Mayers and Taubes were well aware that the Belgian Congo – which used horrific means of 20th century slavery to extract raw the raw materials that created Belgium’s weath. If you look at photographs of the art supplies of the period you will see they are from the Belgian Congo. This is part of my research. American Artist Magazine was the primary information provider of artist materials use and research.

Reviews of Beaute Congo – Congolese Paintings 1926-2015 at Fondation Cartier Paris

This is a historic exhibition of Congo artists from 1926 – 2015 at the Fondation Cartier in Paris. The core art collection of African Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is from the Congo. The Congo was a colony of Belgium from the last decade of the 19th century until at least 1960, when its president was assassinated.

Vincent Johnson

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Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain

Beauté Congo – 1926–2015 – Congo Kitoko

July 11–November 15, 2015

Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain
261, boulevard Raspail
75014 Paris
Hours: Wednesday–Sunday 11am–8pm,
Tuesday 11am–10pm

T +33 (0) 1 42 18 56 50

www.fondation.cartier.com

A place of extraordinary cultural vitality, the creative spirit of the Democratic Republic of the Congo will be honored in the Beauté Congo–1926–2015–Congo Kitoko exhibition presented at the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain with André Magnin, Chief Curator.

Taking as its point of departure the birth of modern painting in the Congo in the 1920s, this ambitious exhibition will trace almost a century of the country’s artistic production. While specifically focusing on painting, it will also include music, sculpture, photography, and comics, providing the public with the unique opportunity to discover the diverse and vibrant art scene of the region.
Access
Metro: Raspail or Denfert-Rochereau (lines 4 and 6)
Bus: 38, 68, 88, 91 RER: Denfert-Rochereau (line B)
Vélib’ and disabled parking at 2, rue Victor Schoelcher

Nomadic Nights
Information and reservations every day from 11am to 8pm (except Mondays)
fondation.cartier.com/nomadicnights / T +33 (0) 1 42 18 56 72

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Paris hosts first ever retrospective of art from Democratic Republic of the Congo

With more eyes than ever on African art, Fondation Cartier’s expansive Beauté Congo exhibition showcases earliest paintings to today’s vibrant, political works

La Vraie Carte du Monde, by Chéri Samba, 2011.
La Vraie Carte du Monde, by Chéri Samba, 2011. Photograph: Chéri Samba/Fondation Cartier

There is a tradition in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, that artists hang their paintings on the outsides of their studios, for the whole world walking by to look at.

Some paintings reflect the very streets where they hang – bars filled with music and dancing, streets overcrowded with rusting cars and elegant sapeurs strutting down the pavements, bejewelled and bedecked in flamboyant outfits. Others depict a utopia, a vision of the DRC that has left behind the conflict, poverty and corruption of the past century. Almost all are steeped in politics.

It is these paintings, and other artworks stretching back 90 years, that are to form the first ever retrospective of art from the DRC. Opening on Saturday at the Fondation Cartier in Paris, the expansive show incorporates 350 paintings, photographs, sculptures and comic books from 41 different artists.

Most of these works have never been displayed internationally, having sat among private collections in Belgium, France and Switzerland, while others were dug out from colonial archives in Brussels and a few brought over from Kinshasa, direct from the artists themselves.

The exhibition may have taken just one year for the curator, André Magnin, to put together but it has been his passion for almost 30 years, having travelled back and forth to the DRC meeting and championing many of the artists now displayed. With more eyes than ever turned to the African art world, and the recent rise in African art fairs in cities such as New York, London and Paris, Magnin, who is the world’s foremost expert on African art, said the time felt right to finally work with the Fondation Cartier to realise his vision.

Amour & Pastèque, by Chéri Samba, 1984

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Amour & Pastèque, by Chéri Samba, 1984. Photograph: Chéri Samba/Fondation Cartier

“People see the DRC as just this country of war and death and suffering but look around – these are such beautiful works filled with such colour and humour and sensuality,” said Magnin, standing before the Popular-style paintings of Pierre Bodo. “I want this exhibition to widen people’s perceptions of the country, show not only how beautiful but also how diverse and how political the art has been over those many decades. I have been wanting to do this show since 1987 but it is only now that the time felt right.”

The exhibition itself works backwards, beginning with the contemporary work of some of the younger artists painting in the capital today and ending on a series of “precursor” paintings: primitive watercolours dating back to 1926 that had lain forgotten in the depths of the Library of Brussels archive, until they were recently rediscovered by Magnin.

Untitled, by Antoinette Lubaki, c.1929

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Untitled, by Antoinette Lubaki, c.1929. Photograph: Antoinette Lubaki/Fondation Cartier

Among the newer works are a collection of photographs by Kiripi Katembo that depict the city of Kinshasa reflected in the dirty water that covers the streets, offering a certain poetry to the chaotic and polluted streets of the capital. Another series, by Sammy Baloji, superimposes photos of Congolese tribes taken on a Belgian expedition in the late 1800s on to watercolours of the country, painted by a Belgian artist during colonial times – a pointed comment on the legacy of colonisation.

Also on display are comic books of Papa Mfumu’eto, who between 1990 and 2000 produced the most popular bande dessinée (comic strips) in Kinshasa. Though they were fictional, they drew from everyday life and the corrupt politics of the Mobutu dictatorship and at their peak were more popular than the daily newspaper.

La Nostalgie, by JP Mika, 2014

La Nostalgie, by JP Mika, 2014. Photograph: JP Mika/Fondation Cartier

An elusive figure, Mfumu’eto made his first public appearance in seven years to visit the retrospective in Paris. Speaking to the Guardian, he explained how he had become drawn to the medium of comic strips. He said: “My five older sisters died before turning five and then I came along and my mother was incredibly protective of me.

“I wasn’t really able to play with other kids because my mother was afraid of losing me like she lost my sisters. I felt very isolated and anonymous in terms of the world around me and the comics came to me as a way of escaping that. The comics brought people to me – they followed the stories and wanted to know what I would create next.”

His first comic, which depicted Mobutu as a boa constrictor who swallowed things and threw them up again as money – still the most popular comic ever sold in Kinshasa – can be seen in the exhibition, alongside numerous others produced over the decade. Mfumu’eto often responded to the wishes of his readers, and when Mobutu died in exile in Morocco in 1997, the artist illustrated him impregnating a woman in hell and having to burn there forever.

However, making critical statements on politics in the DRC, even in the format of art, can often be a dangerous occupation. Mfumu’eto said he had been threatened by the authorities about his comics, while Bodo, another “Popular” artist and evangelical pastor whose paintings feature in the exhibition, died last September under allegedly suspicious circumstances.

Most artists, however, have continued regardless. One of the most internationally renowned Congolese artists in the exhibition is Chéri Samba, 58, whose works have been shown at the Pompidou in Paris as well as at MoMA in New York and at the 2007 Venice Biennale. Having begun life as a billboard painter in the 1970s, he went on to pioneer the Popular style of art – bright, eye-catching works that focused on everyday life and often incorporated text.

La Nostalgie, by JP Mika, 2014

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Untitled, by Pili Pili Mulongoy. Photograph: Pili Pili Mulongoy/Fondation Cartier

“With my paintings I want to captivate people and I want the messages of my paintings to be direct,” Samba said. “I direct my work at the leaders and I want to use my paintings to talk about subjects they may have forgotten but are important to the people. My paintings inspired by daily life and for me, the meaning of Popular art is where people of all milieux can recognise the themes, the topics, the subjects that I am treating. This was created as art for the people.

Untitled (Match Ali-Foreman, Kinshasa), by Moke, 1974

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Untitled (Match Ali-Foreman, Kinshasa), by Moke, 1974. Photograph: Moke/Fondation Cartier

“I believe everyone in earth has a mission and I believe that God gave me the tools to paint and speak my messages through my paintings.”

Figures from Nelson Mandela to Barack Obama crop up in his paintings, though one of the most powerful works on display in the retrospective is a piece called Little Kadogo, I am For Peace, That is Why I Like Weapons. It is a portrait of his son dressed as a Congolese child soldier, palms up in surrender and looking directly out at the viewer.

“I can’t separate my works from politics and I don’t think I ever could,” said Samba. “Yes, my work has got me into difficulty, I have been stopped by the authorities, but it has never gone any further than that and I don’t care. It will never stop me from painting.”

Oui, il faut réfléchir, by Chéri Samba, 2014

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Oui, il faut réfléchir, by Chéri Samba, 2014. Photograph: Chéri Samba/Fondation Cartier

Art, said Samba, was everywhere in Kinshasa, from the posters on the streets to the facades of people’s houses. Now, more than ever, the art scene in the city was thriving, he said. He was heartened that a new generation had taken on the mantle of Popular art and that it was now being seen beyond the city and country’s borders.

Indeed, Samba said he would continue to paint as he had always done. “For 40 years I’ve always been doing the same thing in my paintings, particularly in terms of the message,” he said. “The only thing that has changed is the grey hair in my beard.”

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WALL STREET JOURNAL

A Vibrant Display of Congolese Art at Fondation Cartier

‘Beaute Congo,’ a sparkling new exhibition at Paris’s Fondation Cartier showcases 90 years of modern and contemporary art.

J.P. Mika, ‘Kiese na Kiese,’ 2014. ENLARGE
J.P. Mika, ‘Kiese na Kiese,’ 2014. Photo: JP Mika / Photo: Antoine de Roux

THERE IS ONLY the most fleeting sense of a Conradian heart of darkness in “Beauté Congo—1926-2015—Congo Kitoko,” the Fondation Cartier’s sparkling new show of modern and contemporary Congolese art. The exhibition, which opens in Paris tomorrow and runs through Nov. 15, is a showcase of popular art, neither stiffly academic nor fashioned by European tradition—one that reflects the buoyant resilience of the Congolese character, which refuses to dwell on a grisly colonial past.

Curated by Frenchman André Magnin—who for the past 30 years has been instrumental in introducing contemporary African artists to European audiences—the show’s scope is ambitious, spanning 90 years and featuring 350 paintings, photographs, and sculptures from around 40 Congolese artists.

Pilipili Mulongoy, ‘Untitled,’ c. 1950.
Pilipili Mulongoy, ‘Untitled,’ c. 1950. Photo: Pilipili Mulongoy / Photo: Andr

“I wanted to tell the story of 90 years of Congolese art, which has always been described partially, and was visually familiar but only fragmentarily until now,” explains Mr. Magnin.

The show, laid out in reverse chronological order, begins on the ground floor with work by newer artists such as the EZA POSSIBLES collective, established in 2003 in Kinshasa, and J.P. Mika.

Mr. Mika, who was born in Kinshasa in 1980, is part of a new generation of artists whose narrative, figurative paintings are inspired by the colorful exuberance and dandyish demeanor of Congolese street life. His recent paintings, on patterned fabrics, take their inspiration from the dynamic composition of African photographic studio portraits of the 1960s.

The artist, a graduate of Kinshasa’s Académie des Beaux-Arts, which has existed in various guises since 1943, received additional training from Chéri Chérin. Along with Chéri Samba, Mr. Chérin is one of the leading lights of the self-avowed generation of “popular painters” who began to develop their politically aware cartoonish style, mixing text and images, in the 1980s.

Both artists, who started out making commercial billboards, have several paintings on display, including a denunciative portrait by Mr. Samba of one of his sons dressed as a boy soldier, hands held high in the air.

Chéri Samba, ‘Oui, il faut réfléchir,’ 2014.
Chéri Samba, ‘Oui, il faut réfléchir,’ 2014. Photo: Chéri Samba / Photo: André Mor

In the basement is a series of black and white photographs by Jean Depara, who was born in Angola but went into exile in what was then the Belgian Congo in 1948. Mr. Depara, who died in 1997, left behind an extraordinary collection of photo-reportage depicting Kinshasa before and after independence. Particularly striking are his images of the “Bills,” young Congolese hoodlums from working-class neighborhoods who, in the 1950s, dressed in the style of their American Western heroes.

In the same room is a remarkably intricate construction of a cardboard city by Bodys Isek Kingelez, who became famous for his cardboard models of imaginary buildings. From 1992 until his death this year, he conjured up entire cities based on the kind of utopian designs he dreamt of being built.

It is something of a shock to stumble on the geometric paintings by Congolese artist Djilatendo from the 1920s to ’30s and realize how thoroughly modern they still are

 

But perhaps the greatest discovery of this entrancing exhibition is to be made in the next-door room, where vibrant Congolese paintings from the first half of the 20th century are on display. It is something of a shock to stumble on the geometric paintings by Congolese artist Djilatendo from the 1920s to ’30s and realize how thoroughly modern they still are.

Very little is known about Mr. Djilatendo’s life and work other than that he was a tailor by profession and was inspired by the work of local carpet weavers to produce his geometric panels. He and Albert Lubaki, another early artist on display, were encouraged by a Belgian administrator, Georges Thiry, who supplied them with paints and paper to produce figurative work of animals and village life.

The simple lines and bold use of color in an untitled snake painting from 1931 by Djilatendo call to mind the red fish paintings Matisse did in Morocco from 1911 to ’12. Mr. Magnin, however, is keen to stress that any similarities are coincidental, as it is highly unlikely that Djilatendo had ever come across Matisse’s art before. The comfort is knowing that, without the need for any introductions, the innate elegance of one artist later found its echo in another.

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THE ART NEWSPAPER LONDON

Paris’s love affair with Congolese Modernism continues

Moke, Untitled (undated). © Moke

In 1946, a French soldier and painter named Pierre Romain-Desfossés moved to the African city of Élisabethville (now called Lubumbashi) in the Belgian Congo and set up an art studio called Atelier du Hangar. For nine years, until his death in 1954, Desfossés worked with local artists, such as Mwenze Kibwanga and Pili Pili Mulongoy and helped them get their work into galleries in Paris, London and Rome.

Their work was even exhibited in venues as far away as the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The Hangar was later integrated into Lubumbashi’s art school, but an independent streak cut through all the art the atelier produced. As Desfossés once said: “We must speak forthrightly against all attempts to abolish the personality in favour of a uniform aesthetic according to the standards of white masters.”

This is just one episode in the history of art from what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo that will be explored in a landmark exhibition opening at the Fondation Cartier in Paris in July. The show surveys 90 years of art from the African nation and includes nearly 300 pieces (mostly painting, but also photography, comics and music) by more than 40 artists. “There is a vitality to all of the work, even if there is not much continuity between the first painters included and those who came after the Second World War,” says Leanne Sacramone, a curator at the foundation who worked with the show’s chief organiser, André Magnin.

The earliest work included comes from the 1920s, when Congolese artists were encouraged by Belgian colonial officials such as Georges Thiry to make art on paper. The show then follows through the “popular artists” of the late 1970s and ends with work from the past 15 years. The exhibition is sponsored by the museum and will include a programme of events, such as dance performances.

Beauté Congo, 1926-2015, Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris, 11 July-15 November

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 ART INFO

Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art to Exhibit a Century of Congolese Art

Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art to Exhibit a Century of Congolese Art
Chéri Samba, “Oui, il faut réfléchir” (2014); JP Mika, “Kiese na kiese (Le Bonheur et la Joie)” (2014)
(Copyright Chéri Samba; JP Mika/ Courtesy Fondation Cartier)

In a show of support for the African contemporary art scene, the Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art in Paris will stage “Beauté Congo – 1926-2015 – Congo Kitoko” this summer to trace a century of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s artistic production, from the figurative and geometric works representing village life in the 1920s, to the unconventional collages exploring a better collective future.

Running from July 11 through November 15 at the Fondation Cartier, “Congo Kitoko” follows a series of other projects held at the Fondation featuring Congolese artists including the solo shows Bodys Isek Kingelez (1999) and J’aime Chéri Samba (2004) and the collective exhibitions Un Art Populaire (2001).

Over the years, Congolese artists learned to let their imaginations run free to create colorful works in their own highly inventive and distinctive styles. Some, such as Chéri Samba, Chéri Chérin, and Moke, found themselves inspired by daily, political, or social events that were easily recognizable by their fellow citizens, while others, like Pathy Tshindele and Kura Shomali, approached art crticially with unconventional collages and paintings. And sculptors like Bodys Isek Kingelez and Rigobert Nimi also made a name for themselves with intricate architectural models of utopian cities or robotized factories to explore the question of social cohesion.

The exhibition goes hand in hand with the French jeweler’s commitment to eradicate the conflict gold trade in Congo, where the extraction and smuggling of gold has served as an important means of funding for armed groups and army commanders in the deadliest conflict since World War II. Advocacy group Enough recently released a report that found companies including Tiffany & Co., Signet Jewelers, Cartier, JC Penney, and Target had taken proactive steps to set up requirements for their suppliers to source only from conflict-free gold refiners, contribute to solutions on the ground in Congo, and support the communities affected by mining and violence in the country.

“Congo Kitoko” will also include sculpture, photography, and comics in an effort to showcase the vibrancy and diversity of the art scene in Sub-Saharan Africa. Music also plays a significant role, as jazz, soul, and rap will be played throughout the exhibition, in conjunction with the artworks, while a never-before seen documentary by Vincent Kenis of Crammed Discs, in collaboration with Césarine Bolya, will feature a series of spontaneous interviews of people who participated in Kinshasa’s 1960’s music scene.

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