El Hadji Sy

El Hadji Sy

Weltkulturen Museum

El Hadji Sy, 2014. Photo: Wolfgang Günzel.

February 21, 2015

El Hadji Sy
Painting, Performance, Politics

5 March–18 October 2015 

Opening: 4 March, 7pm

Weltkulturen Museum
Schaumainkai 29
60594 Frankfurt am Main
Hours: Tuesday–Sunday 11am–6pm, 
Wednesday 11am–8pm

T +49 69 212 45115
weltkulturen.museum [​at​] stadt-frankfurt.de


El Hadji Sy: Painting, Performance, Politics is the first retrospective exhibition of the painter and curator El Hadji Sy (b. 1954, Dakar), whose interdisciplinary practice represents a conceptual and aesthetic nerve within post-Independence art in Africa. 

Exhibited internationally as a painter since the late 1970s, and hailed by the late Senegalese poet and president Léopold Sédar Senghor, El Hadji Sy is equally known for his defiant attitude towards state cultural policy. In his capacity as a cultural activist who has worked and lived in Dakar all his life, Sy has never ceased to challenge the authorities and fight for his own artistic autonomy and that of his peers. In 1977, he took charge of squatting an army barracks on the seafront of Dakar, which became the first rendition of the Village des Arts, a creative hub for 70 artists, actors, musicians, filmmakers and writers. There, in 1980, he founded the multi-disciplinary project space Tenq, a Wolof term that signifies “articulation” and continued to remodel this curatorial dialogue in other locations during the 1980s and 1990s. The international workshops that he organised under the same name in Saint-Louis du Sénégal (1994) and Dakar (1996) enabled new networks to be forged between artists working in continental Africa and in Europe at a time when web-centric communications and social media did not exist. As an active player in the Laboratoire AGIT’ART since the collective’s foundation in the mid-1970s, Sy was responsible for its visual staging and its costumes, but also for its strategic interpellation of Senegalese cultural politics. He was an originator of the interventionist artists’ group Huit Facettes, whose work in rural Senegal was presented at documenta 11 in Kassel in 2002. 

The exhibition, which is co-curated by Philippe Pirotte, director of the Städelschule and Portikus, combines El Hadji Sy’s installations and paintings—sometimes executed with his bare feet or produced on unusual surfaces such as industrial rice sacking or synthetic kite silk—with his selection of ethnographic objects and artworks by colleagues from Senegal. For in 1985, in a pioneering move, the Weltkulturen Museum commissioned El Hadji Sy with the task of assembling a new group of works of contemporary art from Senegal, thereby initiating a long-term relationship between Frankfurt and Dakar. The exhibition includes loans from private collections in Senegal, France, and Belgium in addition to works from the collection of the Weltkulturen Museum.

El Hadji Sy: Painting, Performance, Politics tours to the National Gallery in Prague/Narodni galerie v Praze and to the Centre for Contemporary Art Warsaw Ujazdowski Castle/Centrum Sztuki Wspołczesnej Warszawa Zamek Ujazdowski in 2016.

A comprehensive monograph published by diaphanes in English and German includes manifestos and newspaper cuttings of the period, together with essays and interviews by Hans Belting, Clémentine Deliss, Mamadou Diouf, Julia Grosse, Yvette Mutumba, Philippe Pirotte and Manon Schwich. 

For press enquiries, please contact: 
Meike Weber, weltkulturen.presse [​at​] stadt-frankfurt.de / T +49 69 212 35095

Exhibition support
The exhibition is generously supported by DB Schenker, SOMICOA, Smith & Krafft, Fedrigoni Deutschland, BNP Paribas Deutschland, Frankfurter Rundschau, Contemporary And (C&), and the City of Frankfurt.


El Hadji Sy at Weltkulturen Museum
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February 21, 2015

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