'Floor of the Forest' 2007
It was Africa's biggest moment in Venice. Ever. For the first time, there was an African pavilion, located in the Arsenale, After a call for proposals for this pavilion, the nod had gone to Fernando Alvim and Simon Njami to curate a show drawn largely from the Sindika Dokolo Contemporary African Collection of Art. That show was called 'Checklist Luanda Pop'. There was a strong representation of African artists on director Robert Storr's keynote exhibition, 'Think with the sense, feel with the mind: art in the present tense.' Ghanain artist El Anatsui's extraordinary metal fabric hangings draped not only the front of the Palazzo Fortuny but spaces within the Arsenale. And Malian photographer Malick Sidibe won the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement.
The image on the front page of Mikhael Subotzky's Website
And did Africa rise to the occasion? Read Bettina Malcomess' review of the Biennale, and her interview with the key figures involved in the African pavilion, which lays bare some of the setbacks and tensions which accompanied the show on its way to Venice. The good news is, Alvim secured a promise from the Biennale organisation that the African pavilion would become a permanent part of the event.
The art congnoscenti was not in Venice for long - rushing to Art Basel on the 13th, and documenta 12 three days later, where the planned opening party in the park was washed out by rain. The long awaited Documenta, under the directorship of Roger Buergel and Ruth Noack, was a much more serious affair than Venice. Ruth Sacks was there to report back for ArtThrob. See the Documenta section.
Closer to home, 'Africa Remix' the travelling megashow of African art (also curated mainly by Simon Njami) opened at the Johannesburg Art Gallery on June 24, with 17 of the participating artists there to celebrate the event. It is interesting to note that the arrival of the show is only three months short of the 10 year anniversary of the opening of the 2nd Johannesburg Biennale. We have had to wait 10 years for a show of this depth and dimension. It's been a very long wait.
Look for the review of 'Africa Remix' in next month's ArtThrob.
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