LAS PALMAS DE GRAN CANARIA.- The Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno
-CAAM- hosts the MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY AFRICAN ART and more, a project by artist Meschac Gaba (Republic of Benin, Africa, 1961). This is the first exhibition dedicated to this artist, considered one of the most interesting creators in the contemporary art scene. The show is curated by Bianca Visser.
The MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY AFRICAN ART and more, arrives to CAAM coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the grancanarian art center. Both institutions, Gabas project and CAAM, arise from the same intention: to defend the free circulation of ideas and cultural diversity.
Gaba's museum has no fixed headquarters. It is a nomadic institution, inaugurated in 1997, when it was still just an idea. During the following years, the 12 rooms represented in the initial draft have acquired form thanks to the collaboration of museums and institutions of international reputation all over the world, that yielded their space and offered means to the artist to realise his intention. The last contribution, the Humanist Space, was presented during Documenta XI, in 2002.
With time, the project has acquired complexity. The MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY AFRICAN ART speaks about identity and the phenomenon of fashion, the value that we granted to money and of the relation established between art and life. There is money everywhere: on tables and shelves chocolate and silver currencies rest. False, legitimate and devaluated bills, cover furniture and hang on a tree. Compressed bills serve to decorate brooches, pendants and t-shirts. This way, the artist reminds us that money is currently a fiduciary element, result of a social pact.
The rooms of the MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY AFRICAN ART are now being shown together thanks to a collaboration with the Museum De Pavilions van Almere, the Netherlands, and the Kunsthalle Fridericianum, Kassel, Germany. CAAM presents this singular project, along with the installation Tresses (2005) and the piece Safety Rat (2008), with the purpose to offer a clearer vision of the work of the artist.
Tresses arises during a residence in the New York art centre PS1, in 2005. Walking through the streets of Manhattan, Meschac Gaba feels that the skyscrapers settle on his head. There he decides to ask African hairdressers to make a series of wigs using tresses, in the form of singular buildings of the Big Apple and the city of Cotonou, capital of Benin, transmitting a message of peace.
Safety Rat (2008) is a wink, with which the artist pays special attention to younger visitors. The piece was produced for the Deutsches Hygiene Museum in Dresden, Germany, where Meschac Gaba was appointed artistic director, and curated the exhibition Glück welches Glück (Luck, What Luck).
The exhibition MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY AFRICAN ART and more, has been produced by the CAAM, with the support of Casa África and the Mondriaan Foundation. CAAM, Museum the Pavilions of Almere, the Netherlands, Kunsthalle Fridericianum, Kassel, and Casa África, co-produce a monograph published and distributed by the prestigious German publisher Walther König, that will be presented in Las Palmas of Gran Canaria on the occasion of this exhibition.
Meschac Gaba was born in Cotonou, Benin in 1961, where he worked between 1991 and 1996. In 1996 he moved to the Netherlands, to take part in a residency at the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten, in Amsterdam. At the moment he lives in Rotterdam and Benin.
Amongst recent individual exhibitions dedicated to the artist, are Meschac Gaba: Tresses, in the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2005); Glue me peace in the Tate Modern, Level 2 Gallery, London (2005) and at the International Peace Research Institute, Oslo (2006) and Africa Remix, in Johannesburg Art Gallery (2007). Meschac Gaba has participated in numerous exhibitions of international reputation.
Besides presenting the Humanist Space in Documenta XI (2002), Gaba participated in the exhibition We Are The World, Dutch Pavilion at the Venice Biennial of 2003. In 2006, he participated in the Sydney Biennial: Zones of Contact, in 6ª edition of the Biennial of Kwangju, South Korea and in the Biennial of Sao Paulo, titled How to Live Together. In 2008 Meschac Gaba organized the exhibition Glück - Welches Glück (Luck, what luck), in the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum, in the German city of Dresden.
Curator and art critic Bianca Visser, born in the Netherlands in 1973, is currently based in the Canary Islands. After working for the Centre for Contemporary Art Design and Architecture Exedra, and for Panorama 2000, Central Museum Utrecht (both in the Netherlands) and for the César Manrique Foundation (Lanzarote), Bianca Visser curated various exhibitions. Amongst others: Blindgangers en Voetzoekers (2003), Cultivating Nature (2004) andFumus Fugiens (2006). In 2006 she directed the programme of visual arts for the Theatre Festival Over het IJ 2007, Amsterdam, for which she elaborated the exhibitionSimmel's Draw. She has worked with numerous international artists, elaborating projects with Teresa Margolles (Mexico), Kan Xuan (People's Republic of China) and Fernando Sanchez Castillo (Spain). Visser writes for magazine EXIT Express since 2005 and has collaborated in diverse catalogues. Among others, in the catalogue of the Chinese Pavilion at the 52nd edition of the Venice Biennial Everyday Miracles, published by Hou Hanru (2007) and in the catalogue of the exhibition Designing Truth, Museum Wilhelm Lehmbruck, Duisburg (2006).
At the moment Visser lives in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. For the CAAM she has developed the conference cycle Identification Tags, whose first guest was the Dutch photo journalist Geert van Kesteren, and has coordinated the workshop One-Eye, Two-Eyes and Three-Eyes.