In 1984, at the MoMA in New York, the Primitivism exhibition displayed over 200 artworks from Africa, Oceania and the Americas beside works by Picasso, Matisse, Nolde and Giacometti. By doing so, it cast a favourable light on non-Western arts by placing them from the perspective of the Western avant-gardists who gave them their status as works of art. That was the starting point for Philippe Dagen, curator of the exhibition Africa Reborn, which starts by reminding visitors that use of the term 'primitive' remains indissociable from colonisation of Africa and the West's appropriation of what it long called 'Negro art' and reduced to beautiful use of forms without seeking to understand this art's meaning and symbols.
Through a path exploring contemporary creation in all its forms, the exhibition examines relations between today's art and old African arts. What common memory is there in work carried out in the studios of Annette Messager, ORLAN, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Chéri Samba, Alun Be, Théo Mercier or Emo de Medeiros? What have the now-classic African references become in the world of globalised, visual consumption? How have they come back to life?
What political or social meanings do they bear when revived by Myriam Mihindou, Kader Attia, Romuald Hazoumé or Pascale Marthine Tayou, who have made new works of art for Africa Reborn ?
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