After a flurry of Africa-related shows last year, Fred [London] is back on the case, this time with an exhibition from Kenyan painter and sculptor Joseph Bertiers. This is the artist’s first European solo show, and comes just weeks after four of his works found their way – via the Art Basel satellite show Volta 7 – into the renowned (if somewhat controversial) collection of one Jean Pigozzi.
Pigozzi’s Contemporary African Art Collection is the largest in the world, and works from his hoard get everywhere – even into Tate Modern – so it’s definitely a coup of sorts for Bertiers, and for Fred. But I’m not quite sure how this tallies with Fred’s goal of developing a platform that is ‘not tailored to the concerns of a Western market, but which focuses on the social and political debates engaging African artists today’… first, is it too much to hope that the Western market and African socio-political issues might, on occasion, come into alignment? (This is not to credit Pigozzi with socio-political awareness, but to try not to tar all collectors and dealers with the same brush; in some ways, it’s getting more difficult to separate out the ‘African’ and ‘Western’ markets anyhow…) Second, what happens if, having distanced yourself from what you consider to be the Western market, that market’s top buyer (a.k.a. Pigozzi) turns up and declares his intention to buy work from you? ‘A sale’ (or four) is clearly the answer, and understandably so, but where does this leave the gallery’s well-intentioned emphasis on Africa-centred business and curatorial practice? This is not the place to rehearse the well-documented reservations many people have with Pigozzi’s ‘neo-primitivist’ approach, but it’d be interesting to hear the gallery’s response to some of the tensions raised here.
Anyway, art world politics aside, it’s great to see Bertiers making strides after his recent run of bad luck, and I look forward to investigating his Brueghel-esque canvases up at Vyner Street soon.
1st Sept – 9th Oct
or by appointment
Fred [London] Ltd
45 Vyner Street, London
August 29, 2011 at 9:30 am
I don’t suppose Bertiers would have been too pleased if Fred had turned a lucrative sale – from Piggozzi or anyone else. Presumably Fred’s intentions related to how he displays and curates the work in his own gallery rather than what other people do with it after they’ve bought it.
August 29, 2011 at 12:05 pm
thanks for your comment! Like I said, the sales are completely understandable – few people would turn down that kind of opportunity. And I agree that a gallery’s primary responsibility is to its artists, and how they are presented within the gallery.
I can see where you’re coming from with your last point – once the work is sold, really it’s no longer up to the artist or their dealer what happens to it or how it’s presented. However, I do think it’s interesting to think about the implications of where and to whom sales occur. As I understand it, part of how gallerists work with artists to build up their careers is by helping them to place their works with collections which will enhance their reputation. Although the Pigozzi collection is obviously very high-profile, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea conceptually, and I’m interested in what kind of impact this might have on artists whose work finds its way into the collection. In theory people should be able to judge work independently of the collections it appears in, but I’m not sure that this always happens. Of course being part of Pigozzi’s collection is likely to open doors for artists too, financially, and in terms of getting exposure, so there’s no clear-cut answer.
I suppose I was simply musing on the extent to which galleries and artists can balance their commercial interests with an engagement in more conceptual issues.
Your thoughts on any of this would be appreciated!
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