voir la sélection des dessins des enfants...

To look at the most humble object in a modern way.

Charles Baudelaire, The Painter of Modern Life, 1863

By its inconsistency, its undefined twists and turns, the imprecision relating to its colour, its humidity, sputum is even shapeless, unverifiable and an unclassifiable symbol.

Michel Leiris in Documents, 7, 1929

A rough, compact surface, smooth or marked by the tracks of time, or even of work or by simple wear and tear, as if in this limited material landscape, in itself inexpressive, having finished by encrusting human sentiments, human lives, as if a memory had been able to materialise from these rough surfaces, as if these inert materials had been imbued by humanity by not knowing which memory.

Jorge Semprum about Antoni Tapiès, 1994

selected bibliography

the bookshop also offers a selection of books that relate to each temporary exhibition, which will enable you to extend and deepen your visit.

it can be downloaded (in .pdf form) by clicking here 

this exhibition is in partnership with

logo de la chaine de télévision Planète
logo géo

Recipes of the Gods

aesthetic fetish

affiche de l'exposition Recettes des dieux

3 February – 10 May 2009

east suspended gallery

collections ticket

curator : Nanette Jacomijn Snoep

The exhibition invites the European public to discover a category of African artefacts hardly known to them : the « shapeless » artefects.

These are divinational artefacts, often called « fetishes » in which the human form is concealed or not recognized.

Metamorphoses, additions, successive layers draw a memory on these artefacts, a mark that only a soothsayer knows how to decipher.

scenographic principles

amulet © musée du quai Branly
amulet © musée du quai Branly

The exhibition deals with the different ways of representing the invisible without having to resort to human representation : the most harmless appearance of an artefact, a shapeless mass, a bulging sack, a horn…, may sometimes be more sacred, more important than a recognizable anthropomorphic sculpture.

Recipe of the Gods is an assembly of artefacts and materials : the exhibition draws its inspiration from that of an assembly of contemporary art, as well as the altar of a divine African. Logically, it follows a modular course : « shapeless », it can be read and covered in all senses, in a manner either transverse (across all the artefact-lights which make up a « red thread » for the visitor) or thematic (sequence by sequence).

This freedom of approach corresponds perfectly to the architectural space of the exhibitions file, on the East suspended gallery.

Scenography will play on spaces – irregular spacing between the display cabinets, diversity in stand heights -, and on formats – the great massive bowl will be presented near to a thin stake, surmounted by a small tuft of hair. 

"shapeless" exhibit in African art

mask and costume © musée du quai Branly
mask and costume © musée du quai Branly

Exhibitions of L'informe contemporary art.Mode d’emploi at the Centre Georges Pompidou in 1996 and Arte Povera, Antiform, Sculpture at Bordeaux in 1982 make up two references for Recipe of the Gods.

No exhibition at the present time has been devoted to this category of « shapeless » artefacts that relate to African art. The African Accumulative Sculpture : Power and Display exhibition presented in 1974 in New York, which highlighted the theme of accumulation in African art, finds there a little of its own echo. On the other hand, even if the recent Art and Oracle exhibition at the MET in New York revealed divinatory practices, it presented few or no « shapeless » works of art.

The shapeless aspect in African art thus gives originality to this exhibition. It presents a neglected aspect of African art that is closer to Arte Povera (Poor Art) or « Supports-Surfaces » and thus allows the establishment of links with contemporary art.

visit the exhibition as a family

For the duration of the exhibition, Le secret des fétiches / The secret of the fetishes gamebook allows children (7 and older) to discover the exhibition through games. This gamebook is free of charge and is available in the museum’s entrance hall and at the beginning of the exhibition...

At the end of the exhibition route, children are invited to draw their own “fetish object” based on what they have just seen on display in the exhibition and to drop the drawings into the box provided...

With parents’ approval, a selection of drawings will be put online on the museum’s website.

open the drawing box and see a selection of children’s drawings!

about the exhibition: the Magical object workshop

Recipes of the gods exhibition - Click to enlarge, open in a new window
© musée du quai Branly, photo Jacques Rostand

the shaman, Nganga, of the Kongo people of Central Africa uses magical objects called Minksi to protect people and help them to resolve their problems.

spiked with nails and blades, the magical statues are sometimes a bit frightening, but in fact help the Nganga to banish sorcerers and punish evildoers.

finding inspiration in the magical objects of Central Africa, children from 3 to 6 years old taking part in the workshop are invited to create their own “Magical object”.

starting in February, Magical object workshop lasting 1 ½ hours (for children aged 3 to 6)