Picasso in Dakar: between homage, reinterpretation and discovery


ONEWhile the Museum of Black Civilizations in Dakar offers from 1It is April the exhibition “Picasso in Dakar 1972-2022”, fifty years after the exhibition of the works of the Spanish artist at the Dynamic Museum of Dakar, the gallery of the French institute Le Manège offers an inversion of paradigms through the works of sixteen artists from or linked to the African continent.

READ TOOPicasso the African returns to Dakar

Discovering the links between Picasso and Africa

This May morning, the 28 cm2 students from the Sainte-Jeanne-d’Arc Institution in Dakar are waiting, lined up in a single file in the hall of the Museum of Black Civilizations (MCN), to be able to attend the guided tour. of the exhibition “Picasso in Dakar 1972-2022”. “The artist’s name is Pablo Ruiz Picasso and he exhibited in Dakar in 1972 at the Dynamic Museum after meeting Senghor in Paris”, informs Youssou, 11, proving in passing that he did the research recommended by the professor before the visit. His 10-year-old classmate Khadija adds: “He made animal sculptures, painted pictures and liked African masks. It was your aunt who told you about it. In addition to this information collected on the Web, this young audience knows little about the artist and, in particular, about his works. What is even less known to these pre-teens, like many adults, is Picasso’s attraction to the African continent, he who lived surrounded by African works and objects. Fifty years after Picasso’s first exhibition at the Dynamic Museum in Dakar, under the impulse of Léopold Sédar Senghor, it is this “kinship” that the present exhibition wishes to highlight. This was produced in collaboration between four museums, two French and two Senegalese: the Picasso-Paris museum, the Quai Branly-Jacques-Chirac museum, the Théodore-Monod museum and the Museum of Black Civilizations that hosts it.

Scholars, students listen to the cultural mediator detail his artistic affiliation, or at least these constant mirror games. Armed with a sheet of paper, they do not lose any of the information collected: “blackness”, “portrait of a black man represented as an emperor”, “cubism”, “figurative art”, etc. Arriving in front of a Baoulé mask positioned next to a Picasso painting (the one on the exhibition poster), Asmaou Manga asks them: “What similarities do you see? Fingers are raised: “The shape of the elongated face”, says one; “the nose,” adds another; “the shape of the eyes”, analyzes another student. Pausing in front of a huge photo of the artist wrapped in an orange fabric in the middle of her studio, the cultural mediator, who has undergone a week-long training to deepen her knowledge of the artist, continues to inform her audience that asks her about the private life of the artist. artist: “Did he have children? » Same set of mirrors a few meters further between the screen The woman in the armchair and a Bedu mask: similar colors, same shape… The African origin of the Catalan inspiration is visible. Throughout the exhibition, Amsatou turned to painting The reclining woman reading, because he also “loves to read”. Khadija passing in front of the screen asks herself: “Who is this lady? Wouldn’t it be Olga, Picasso’s wife? remembering that Ms. Manga had mentioned this a few minutes earlier. At the end of this thirty-minute visit, Émilie Sarr, the class teacher, is very satisfied: “I was reluctant at first, but I really find it very interesting. I learned a lot of information, in particular the correspondences between the artist’s works and Africa, the connection with the black arts… Children need to open up to the world, maybe there will even be future painters in the class! “She also intends to return with her children. School visits are linked every day to the Museum of Black Civilizations. “We have a lot of orders! says Asamou Manga. “This exhibition is a way of showing that art brings people together, that the museum is open to all cultures, safeguarding our own. For schools, it is also a way to introduce art to Senegalese children, many of whom are not familiar with this environment, and to spark interest,” she explains.

READ TOOLeonardo da Vinci is displayed at the Museum of Black Civilizations in Dakar

“Picasso Remix”: invert and emancipate the gaze

In line with the MCN exhibition, the gallery of the French institute Le Manège proposes to change paradigms through its exhibition “Picasso Remix”*. “We put together this exhibition with Olivia Marsaud, director of Manège, at the request of Hamady Bocoum, director of MCN”, explains Mohamed Amine Cissé, co-curator of “Picasso Remix”. This time, it is the works of sixteen artists**, from the diaspora, resident or with a strong connection to the African continent, who take advantage of Picasso’s works to revisit them and reverse the perspectives: the works are seen from the continent. “We know that Picasso was inspired by Africa. We wanted to change the paradigm, giving artists carte blanche to express their relationship with the artist, with their style, with their creations. The works on display were produced between 2000 and 2022. Some already existed and resonated, while others were created for the occasion”, adds Mohamed Amine Cissé before specifying that the objective was also to multiply the supports: painting, canvas, photo collage, sculpture, ceramics … “Few people know that, at the end of his life, Picasso produced around 3,500 ceramic pieces”, he reports.

“Some of the works are responses, others are tributes with the claim of a heritage and an assumed affiliation”, says the curator. The extraordinary screen Guernica it is revisited here by the Beninese Roméo Mivekannin, who inserts his portraits on the canvas, in order to better appropriate it and place the African man at the center of the work. It feels more current than ever, because it echoes the conflicts that are shaking our century: Syria, Afghanistan and, more recently, the war in Ukraine. Sandra Seghir offers a reinterpretation of the Catalan painter’s famous painting The Ladies of Avignon with your painting The Primifordials, which retains the original format. While still representing the female body, the artist reinvents aesthetic codes and diversity by representing strong women with different skin tones. A more feminine and feminist reappropriation of the work that breaks the codes of classical art. This desire to reposition women as creators, and no longer as mere muses, is also found in the paintings of Marianne Collin Sané and in the self-portrait of Audrey d’Erneville that represents a woman of disproportionate size to illustrate the strength and power of women. african. A little further on, the famous bull head of Picasso is revisited by Meissa Fall who reconstructed it with bicycle parts, in this case a saddle. “He created this work for all to see. The original is in a museum, so not everyone has access to it”, develops Mohamed Amine Cissé.

“Picasso taught me nothing. He was the one who inspired me. And when I say I, I’m talking about us Africans”, says artist Moussa Traoré. Often called the “African Picasso”, Kiné Aw bristles at this, arguing that Cubism was not invented by Picasso, although in Europe he is widely referred to as the forerunner of this artistic style.

Thierry Fontaine’s African masks, whose eyes have been replaced by candles, the wax drops like tears, evoke the attraction of Picasso’s masks. But behind the work, the artist evokes colonization, the prohibition of animism in that period and the pain experienced by the populations. The discourse becomes more political with Vincent Michéa’s photocollage that evokes, through the photo of framed, “locked” African works, the question of the works’ return to Africa. A question also raised by the production of the Ban collective, which has produced the traditional Senegalese ceramic incense burners (cuuray) that “question the meaning that an object retains when it is locked in a museum and loses the reason for its creation. It becomes a dead object.” While the issue of the return of African artworks to the continent is more topical than ever, the emancipation of visions is essential. Thus, this exhibition, by giving voice to these artists, offers them the opportunity to give their point of view and highlight the contribution of African creators in the history of world art. A salutary and necessary re-appropriation with a confrontation of aesthetics, techniques, inspirations that aims, in addition to multiplying views on art history, to affirm the place of contemporary African artists in the face of modern art criteria. The title of the exhibition “Picasso Remix” is thus a tribute to “Africa Remix”, one of the largest exhibitions of contemporary African art that allowed its placement on the world stage and contributed to a better recognition of contemporary arts outside the West”, emphasizes Mohamed Amine Cisse.

* “Picasso Remix”, an exhibition to see at the Le Manège gallery of the French Institute in Dakar, until June 30th.

**16 artists from 7 countries = Meissa Fall, Thierry Fontaine, Collectif Ban, Camara Gueye, Kiné Aw, Noumouke Camara, Audrey d’Erneville, Dimitri Fagbohoun, Marianne Collin Sané, Sandra Seghir, Moussa Traoré, Hervé Yamguen, Carl-Edouard Keïta, Koko Komegne, Vincent Michéa, Roméo Mivékannin.


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