Artist: Meschac Gaba
From: Cotonou, Benin
Medium: Painter. Sculptor. Museum Builder.
Key Themes: Developmental politics. Commercialism. The role of the Western museum. Public space.
About the artist:
– Gaba started out painting until he stumbled across a sack of decommissioned money that had been turned into a bag of confetti. To Gaba this found material of devalued West African CFA franc was ‘magic’ and he eventually used it to make collaged paintings.
– His two year residency at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam in 1996 led the Beninese artist to tussle with the question ‘Where do you show African contemporary art?’, as the only place he could find was an ethnographic museum. This spurred him on to create his most ambitious work, the anti-museum creation The Museum of Contemporary African Art 1997–2002
– Until Tate Modern acquired the Museum Gaba was its keeper, he and his family had been living in and conserving it in a large space in Rotterdam
About the exhibition:
– The Museum of Contemporary African Art is made up of 12 idiosyncratic rooms that in total took five years to plan.
– The key to Gaba’s exhibition is interaction, visitors are encouraged to get stuck in. There is a Game Room, where you can rearrange puzzles based on African flags to look like abstract paintings. An Art and Religion Room full of random knick-knacks and religious artefacts, occasionally a tarot reader visits.
– There’s also a Museum Restaurant that curators will use to will host dinners and a Museum Shop which contains objects contributed by other artists.
The most consistent elements across the rooms is decommissioned banknotes and the dots and pellets made from them, Gaba.
What critics say: “…Gaba’s vision tore through my expectations of what art is and how it relates to our ordinary, irreplaceable lives.” – Johnathan Jones, The Guardian
What AAIL says: Gaba is one of two African visionaries that the Tate Modern is making a big deal of this summer. His museum within a museum is an exhibition not to be missed, not least because its free. Gaba’s work is a must for anyone who enjoys interacting with art and key to those thinking about the ways in which African art work is viewed and shared. Also look out for a host of fun events – tours, dinners, talks – accompanying Gaba’s work.
3 July – 22 September
London SE1 9TG
Sunday – Thursday: 10.00–18.00
Friday – Saturday: 10.00–22.00