As a reflection of our growing conviction that we should increase our exposure to Contemporary Art coming from Africa, the Tiroche DeLeon Collection recently acquired two monumental works by Malian artist Abdoulaye Konaté.
Génération biometrique n. 5, 2008-2013, Textile, 318 x 230 cm ; Tolerance Religieuse, 2013, Textile, 142 x 206 cm
Feeding on Mali’s cloth tradition, Abdoulaye Konaté has abandoned painting in favor of textile and has been using delicate threads and various fabrics to approach political topics such as AIDS, war, ecological issues, human rights and globalization affects.
The first piece, Génération biometrique n. 5, underlines the problematic core of immigration from Africa to Europe. For Konaté, Europe appears as a mirage to African emigrants who on arrival are met by demand for biometric fingerprints, an act that cancels individuality and labels them as objects to be priced- what Konaté describes as the Biometric Generation. The work might also suggest a predicament for the future, where society in its entirety will be recorded with a biometric tracking system.
The second piece, Tolerance Religieuse, characterized by it's austere color, is based on a grid of intersecting vertical and horizontal lines. The symbols of religion and political power stand out against a background that fades from black to shades of gray.Konaté arranges the structure with a disarming clarity of traditional elements epitomizing the cultural and philosophical richness and complexity of his language.
In contrast to previous works by Konate which are said to have a Rothko-like quality to them, these pieces are best described as Naive. Amongst flattened figures Konate adds 'gris-gris', amulets that are used for protection against evil. When used extensively these huge white drops made out of cloth create a sculptural effect. Both acquisitions will be on display at the Africa Museum in the Netherlands next month.
Interest in African contemporary Art has been growing substantially in the recent past. Evidence abounds. El Anatsui, perhaps Africa's most sought after artist at the moment, who has just had his first critically acclaimed US solo show at the Brooklyn Museum in New York, has seen his auction prices regularly cross the $1 million mark in recent months. An African art acquisition committee has been established at the Tate Modern. For the first time in the history of the Venice Biennial the prestigious Golden Lion Prize was bestowed on an African country - Angola. The first of its kind African art fair, 1:54, is to take place in parallel to Frieze art fair in London. Cameroonian curator Koyo Kouoh, head of the artistic and educational programs for the fair, explained in a BBC article: “African countries are getting more and more involved in promoting art, and they are using art to promote their country”.
Moreover, the rise of African art is apparent in the private collectors market. The Guardian states that Nigeria and Kenya are flourishing thanks to African entrepreneurs looking to invest in safe assets: “As African economies outperform the global average, a collectors' scene is booming among emerging elites and a growing number of foreign buyers.” Bearing in mind that compared to contemporary art from other parts of the world, the prices for African art are still quite modest, investors are increasingly seeing it as a good investment.
Always on the lookout for influential artists and seminal works, The Tiroche DeLeon Collection already contains many inspiring pieces by African artists such as UK based Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare MBE, Moroccan artist Mounir Fatmi, Kudzanai Chiurai from Zimbabwe, South African artists such as David Goldblatt and Mikhael Subotzky, as well as globally recognized William Kentridge, who's work is currently on display at the Metropolitan Museum.
Abdoulaye Konaté is currently represented by Prima Marella Galley in Milan.
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