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

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Recipes of the Gods

aesthetic fetish

affiche de l'exposition Recettes des dieux

3rd February – 10th May 2009

East suspended gallery

collections ticket

Curator : Nanette Jacomijn Snoep

The exhibition invites provides the opportunity to discover the « shapeless » artefects; a category of African artefacts that are relatively unknown to the European public. 

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

Metamorphoses, additions and superimposed layers invest these artefacts with a memory that only the soothsayer can 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 banal-looking 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. As such, the exhibition draws its inspiration just as much from contemporary art installations, as from the altar of and African soothsayer. Naturally, it follows a modular, « shapeless » course that can be pursued in different ways. The visitor can either follow a transveral route (discovering the highlights, which function as a common thread through the exhibition) or a thematic route (discovering each section).

This freedom of approach corresponds perfectly to the exhibition's architectural space in the East suspended gallery.

The scenography will play on contrasting spaces – the irregular spacing between the display cabinets and the stands' diverse range of heights - and dimensions – the great massive boli will be presented near to a thin stake, surmounted by a small tuft of hair. 

Exhibiting the "shapeless" in African art

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

Recipe of the Gods draws from two contemporary art exhibitions entitled: L'informeMode d’emploi, exhibited at the Centre Georges Pompidou in 1996 and Arte Povera, Antiform, Sculpture, exhibited in Bordeaux in 1982.

No exhibition on African art has yet focused on the notion of « shapeless » artefacts. A loose parallel can be drawn with the 1974 New York exhibition: African Accumulative Sculpture: Power and Display, which highlighted the theme of accumulation in African art. And although the recent Art and Oracle exhibition at the MET in New York presented divinatory practices, it exhibited few or no « shapeless » works of art.

The shapeless aspect in African art thus gives this exhibition its originality. It presents a neglected aspect of African art that is closer to Arte Povera (Poor Art) or « Supports-Surfaces » and thus establishes a link 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 years 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 entrance to 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 can sometimes be a bit frightening, but in fact help the Nganga to banish sorcerers and punish evildoers.

3 to 6 year olds who take part in the workshop are invited to draw inspiration from Central Africa's magical objects in order to create their own “Magical object”.

Starting in February, 1 ½ hour Magical object workshop (for children aged 3 to 6 years)