African Art in London

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Meschac Gaba @ Tate Modern

Artist: Meschac Gaba

Draft Room

Draft Room

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

Architecture Room

Architecture Room

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.

Art and Religion

Art and Religion Room

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

Tate Modern
London SE1 9TG

Opening Hours
Sunday – Thursday: 10.00–18.00
Friday – Saturday: 10.00–22.00


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Meschac Gaba in Conversation with Chris Dercon @ Tate Modern

Meschac Gaba ©  Kunsthalle-Fridericianum

Meschac Gaba © Kunsthalle-Fridericianum

Beninese artist Meschac Gaba talks to Chris Dercon, Director of the Tate Modern.

The occasion: To mark the Tate’s largest acquisition and display of Meschac Gaba’s work, Museum of Contemporary Africa Art 1997-2002.

The conversation:
An opportunity to hear Gaba speak about his work and its journey to the Tate Modern. The talk will also feature personal anecdotes of Dercon and Gaba’s friendship. They’ve been buddies since 1996/7. In 2000 Dercon interviewed Gaba as Director of the Museum Bojimans Van Benunigen, Rotterdam, and later that year acted as a witness at his wedding. Documentation of the wedding features in the Marriage room of Gaba’s exhibition.

Meschac Gaba in Conversation with Chris Dercon

Starr Auditorium
Wednesday 3 July 2013,
Time: 18.30 – 21.00
£12, concessions available
Ticket holders’ private view of the display after the talk from 20.00–21.00

Tate Modern
London SE1 9TG

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serial attempts: Berti, Ferreira, Gbaguidi @ news of the world gallery

From Conciliabule series - Pélagie Gbaguidi (2003-2006)

From Conciliabule artist’s notebook series – Pélagie Gbaguidi (2003-2006)

Christine Eyene‘s latest curatorial project in London, serial attempts, brings together three artists working in different media to explore the creative process of art-making, in which ‘serial attempts’ are made to achieve the often unachievable.

Cecilia Ferreira (Mozambique/South Africa) presents an experimental video, The Chaos Within (2009); Cristiano Berti (Italy) contributes a sound installation, Happy (2004); and Pélagie Gbaguidi (Benin/Belgium) shows notes and sketches from the series Conciliabule (2003-2006). This last work inspired ‘process: immaterial proposal’, Eyene’s wider project aiming to ‘apprehend art, notably produced by African artists, beyond fixed narratives, representations, and identities’. More info here.

Show: on now, but not sure of dates… try calling/texting Pierre Coinde or Gary O’Dwyer on 07851 318 230, or emailing

Opening hours: every Friday and Saturday, 12-6

news of the world gallery
50 Resolution Way, Deptford, London

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Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou @ Jack Bell

Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou

Is this unprecedented? There are currently two solo exhibitions by artists from Benin in London. While Gérard Quenum’s current show at the October Gallery involves creepy but cute dolls and a whimsical take on transnational histories, across town at Jack Bell Gallery, there’s a somewhat different vision of Porto-Novo from photographer Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou. Demoiselles de Porto Novo features a crumbling Afro-Brazilian mansion, in which masked, semi-nude women pose rather uncomfortably. What it all means, I cannot say, but here are a few ideas from Jack Bell.

The show continues until 20th October.

Opening hours: 11.00-18.00, Tues-Sat

Jack Bell Gallery
13 Masons Yard, St James’s, London


Gérard Quenum @ October Gallery

Moine (Monk) (2012) – Gérard Quenum

As someone who mostly enjoyed playing with wooden bricks, crayons, twigs and mud as a child, I’ve never felt particularly interested in dolls, especially the plastic kind. But sculptor Gérard Quenum’s latest exhibition at October Gallery could change that. When I first saw his art works – most of which use recycled dolls, along with other found objects – I thought they were profoundly creepy, but after a while they won me over with their disconcerting but weirdly moving baby stares. Quenum’s new show, Dolls Never Die, presents a range of new sculptures and an installation tracing the multiple stories and paths that converge in his home town of Porto-Novo. 

The show continues until 27th October.

Opening hours: 12.30-17.30, Tues-Sat

October Gallery
24 Old Gloucester Street, Bloomsbury, London

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Romuald Hazoumè @ October Gallery

Moncongo – Romuald Hazoumè (2012)

Romuald Hazoumè is back at October Gallery this summer with Cargoland, a solo show featuring new installations, sculpture and photography. Hazoumè is known for his quirky, amusing and politically cutting work highlighting the entanglements of everyday life and work in Benin with local, national, transnational and global flows of material goods and capital. To hear more about his work, go along to his gallery talk this Friday at 4pm.

Show: 28th June – 11th August

Opening hours:
Tues – Sat, 12.30 – 17.30

October Gallery
24 Old Gloucester Street, Bloomsbury, London


Out of Focus @ Saatchi Gallery

Playing With Plastic, Toekomsrus, Beaufort - Mikhael Subotzky (2007)

The big new photography show at the Saatchi Gallery, Out of Focus, includes work by a number of photographers with African connections: Beninese photographer Leonce Raphael Agbodjélou (who showed at Jack Bell last year and the year before); South African photographers Mohau Modisakeng and Mikhael Subotzky (pictured); and Johannesburg/London-born, London-based duo Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin.

Untitled (People in trouble) - Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin (2011)

I recently had the good fortune to see some of Broomberg and Chanarin’s work as part of a group show at Belfast Exposed gallery, but it might also be familiar to anybody who saw their exhibition at Paradise Row last year. In the recent series People In Trouble Laughing Pushed To The Ground (2011), the artists drew on images from the Belfast Exposed photographic archive, which was founded in 1983 and documents the Troubles in Northern Ireland through photographs of everyday and not-so-everyday life, taken by both professionals and non-professionals. The artists used the physical traces of these images’ lives in the archive – random blots, cuts, scratches and round stickers – to guide the form and selection of their own prints. The result is a moving, multi-layered exploration of the role of photography in the making, remembering and re-making of history.

Show: 25th April – 22nd July

Opening hours: Mon-Sun, 10-6

Saatchi Gallery
Duke Of York’s HQ, King’s Road, London