masters of sculpture from ivory coast
From 14th April - 26th July 2015
- Garden Gallery
- Temporary exhibitions and twin tickets
- Lorenz Homberger, Curator of African and Oceanian Art at the Rietberg Museum in Zurich
- Eberhard Fischer, Ethnologist and former Director of the Rietberg Museum.
- Tours, publications and related events (in French)
About the exhibition
Western Africa and its masters. Under-estimated for several decades,
the art of the Senufo, Lobi, Guro or Dan is now taking its rightful
place through an exhibition that aims to reveal these peoples' artistic and personal
Long considered in the West as simple artisanal objects, the wooden sculptures produced in West Africa – and principally in the Ivory Coast – reveal their technical qualities and aesthetic power through an exhibition that traces the region's major styles.
The exhibition defends the argument that African art – like Western art – is composed by individual artists. To present the workshops of master sculptors from the late 19th and early 20th centuries is to affirm their profoundly artistic identity. It also introduces the works' geographical, religious and social contexts and simultaneously initiates the Western eye to the beauty and aesthetic codes of the region. The works and contemporary installations presented to conclude the exhibition confirm the power of this heritage.
The exhibition entrance presents the geographical, religious and social context in which the West African sculptures were created. It introduces visitors to the most popular objects in these regions, as a preamble to an exploration of styles and master workshops.
The core of the exhibition presents ancient masterpieces by sculptors from West Africa, by ethic group: Senufo, Lobi, Guro, Dan, Baoulé and the Lagoon Peoples. Although the political borders of States are not relevant, the majority of ethnic groups are part of the population of Ivory Coast or its neighboring countries: Liberia, Guinea and Burkina Faso.
The exhibition culminates with works by contemporary artists from these regions, whose creations are intended for a regional and international clientele.
The main part of the exhibition presents known and unknown artists from Ivory Coast and its neighboring regions. This display of masterpieces is framed by:
- a retrospective presentation of the workshops of artists from the 19th and early 20th century (in the first section),
- and a look towards the future with a collection of contemporary works and installations produced by artists from the second half of the 20th century, still working today (third section).
the gallery of sculptors
Visitors are invited to discover West African artists who worked in a traditional environment and produced works between the 19th and first half of the 20th century. This section begins with a large room dedicated to Dan artists, focusing on eight master sculptors from the villages of Belewale and Nyor Diaple.
In a large gallery, visitors will discover the art of the Senufo, Lobi, Guro, Baoulé and the Lagoon Peoples. This display presents the major typologies of objects of West African sculpture and the different ways in which forms were transmitted, looking at the popularity of a style and the ways in which it was disseminated and the distinction between original works and copies.
The works are considered not from the perspective of their typology or functionality, but according to their aesthetic power and the singularity of the artist. This singularity can be affirmed either by personal interpretation of the stylistic standard of the group or ethnic group to which the artist belongs, or by its geographical spread, or by a progression towards modernity, the artist freeing himself from tradition through his art.
room of techniques
One room in the exhibition is dedicated to artists’ techniques: pottery, brass casting, wood sculpture, precious metal working and manufacture of ivory jewelry, gold leaf plating and weaving. This room includes ethnographic objects, films demonstrating each technique and a collection of textiles enabling visitors to discover the beauty and the formal aesthetic frameworks of the region.
The last section of the exhibition presents works and installations by contemporary artists, active from the second half of the 20th century up until today. These artists represent a new generation of "transnational" African artists and highlight the creative continuity of West African sculptors in the post-colonial period.
This exhibition is co-produced by the Rietberg Museum of Zürich and the Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland in Bonn. It will be shown at the following institutions as part of a European tour:
- Rietberg Museum, Zürich – Sunday, February 16 to Sunday, June 1, 2014
- Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Bonn on Saturday June 28 to Sunday, October 5, 2014
- Die Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam – Saturday, October 25, 2014 to Sunday, February 15, 2015
- musée du quai Branly, Paris – Tuesday April 13 to Sunday, July 26, 2015
Exhibition media partners