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Moderna Museet acquires Arthur Jafa's "The White Album"
Arthur Jafa, The White Album, 2018 Film still from Arthur Jafa's The White Album (2018). Courtesy of the artist and Gavin Brown's Enterprise, New York/Rome.

STOCKHOLM.- Moderna Museet has acquired The White Album by Arthur Jafa, through a donation from The American Friends of Moderna Museet. This 40-minute video work was awarded the Golden Lion at the 2019 Venice Biennale.

In summer 2019, Moderna Museet showed the exhibition Arthur Jafa: A Series of Utterly Improbable, Yet Extraordinary Renditions (featuring Ming Smith, Frida Orupabo and Missylanyus). In May 2019, Arthur Jafa was awarded the Golden Lion in Venice for The White Album, a video work that the Biennale jury described as “in equal measure ... an essay, a poem and portraiture”.

Thanks to a donation from The American Friends of Moderna Museet, an edition of The White Album has now been added to the Museum’s collection.

In The White Album, Arthur Jafa examines white violence against black citizens. Jafa juxtaposes brutally violent footage and shocking statements with other images demonstrating his love and respect for people in his life who happen to be white. In his expansive video portraits, he evokes a dual sense of intimacy and rejection. He asks the fundamental questions of what it actually means to be white – and black.

“The White Album is an extremely important work that visualises the disturbing and invasive racism that is currently being debated globally. Arthur Jafa takes footage from real life and inserts it in an artistic framework that speaks directly to the body and the senses. His practice insists on giving black America a face and a voice. The White Album is horrifyingly urgent, and we are very grateful for this donation from The American Friends of Moderna Museet,” says Gitte Ørskou, director of Moderna Museet.

Arthur Jafa was born in 1960 in Tupelo, Mississippi, and currently lives and works in Los Angeles. Following a successful career in film – including collaborations with Spike Lee and Stanley Kubrick – Arthur Jafa won recognition in the 2010s on the national and international art scene. His major breakthrough came with the work Love is the Message, the Message is Death, shown for the first time a few days after the presidential election in 2016.

Arthur Jafa’s method is based on arranging and combining images from disparate situations, periods and historical contexts. His narratives go way back in American history, to the marks left on the people and the culture by the trans-Atlantic slave trade. He uses his ideas on Black Visual Intonation (BVI) to create a cinematic practice where montage creates visual movement that synchronises with a special vibrating tonality. Together with close friends and colleagues, he continues to work with the aim of creating what he himself describes as “a Black cinema with the power, beauty and alienation of Black music”. Arthur Jafa has also produced music videos for artists such as Beyoncé, Solange and Jay-Z, thereby making a name for himself among a larger and younger audience.

The White Album will be installed and shown at Moderna Museet towards the end of the year.

A Series of Utterly Improbable Yet Extraordinary Renditions was shown at Moderna Museet on 29 June to 8 September 2019. Arthur Jafa had invited Ming Smith, Frida Orupabo and Missylanyus to participate in the exhibition. It was curated by Amira Gad and Hans Ulrich Obrist, and Moderna Museet’s Anna Tellgren. Moderna Museet has also acquired two works by Frida Orupabo and a collection of photographs by Ming Smith.

Another donation from The American Friends of Moderna Museet was recently installed in the Moderna Museet: The sculpture Corrugated by Simone Leigh (b. 1967 in Chicago), which was acquired for the collection in November 2019.

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