November 27, 2012 - Menil Collection - The Progress of Love
November 27, 2012

The Progress of Love

Yinka Shonibare, MBE, The Swing (after Fragonard). © 2012 Yinka Shonibare, MBE.*

The Progress of Love
December 2, 2012–March 17, 2013

The Menil Collection
1511 Branard St
Houston, TX 77006

T 713 535 3170

The Menil Collection is proud to participate in an unprecedented collaborative exhibition, The Progress of Love, exploring the changing modes and meanings of love in today’s global society, as seen by more than two dozen contemporary artists from Africa and a select few of their counterparts from Europe and America.

The Progress of Love at the Menil reveals how artists in Africa today are questioning, reflecting, and challenging received images and norms of love—sexual, familial, friendly, communal—as derived both from traditional culture and Western influences. Audiences in Lagos, Nigeria and St. Louis, Missouri will have opportunities to consider other aspects of this subject, as seen in exhibitions and live performances at the Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos (opened October 13, 2012 and on view through January 27, 2013) and The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts (opened November 16, 2012 and on view through April 20, 2013).

“With our partner institutions we are presenting a gathering of works that prompt us to think more clearly and seriously about the meaning of love, in all its expressions and manifestations,” said Menil Director Josef Helfenstein. “The fact that the impetus for this rethinking comes primarily from artists in today’s Africa and its diaspora broadens the understanding that our emotional lives have a history, just as our public affairs do—with similarities, differences, and cross-currents. I believe that The Progress of Love will open eyes and hearts and minds.”

The Progress of Love is co-organized by Kristina Van Dyke, former curator for collections and research at the Menil Collection and now director of The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, and Bisi Silva, independent curator and director of CCA, Lagos. The Pulitzer presentation was assisted by Francesca Herndon-Consagra, Senior Curator of Prints, Drawings, and European Paintings at the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin.

The Menil’s presentation of The Progress of Love includes works by more than 20 artists from Africa, Europe, and America and examines the ways in which language, mass media, cultural traditions, and socioeconomic forces foster images and expectations about love. The exhibition pays particular attention to the effects of the digital era, asking whether our ideas about love are now coming into closer alignment across the Atlantic.

Among the 56 works at the Menil are three commissioned pieces. ONG SBOP by Romuald Hazoumé documents a new project in which the artist established a non-governmental organization in Benin and invited his fellow Beninois to express love for self and others by making contributions to help people in the West lead better lives. A Lagos State of Mind by Emeka Ogboh is a sound installation that brings public and private conversations in Lagos to Houston, and in particular to its Nigerian expatriate community. Eaten By The Heart by Zina Saro-Wiwa is a video installation with a web component showing vignettes of a common activity—kissing—that is frequently represented to the Western public but is seldom shown when the lovers are African.

“The works in this exhibition offer a broad range of images and narratives of love that we have inherited over time and across cultures,” said Kristina Van Dyke. “The Progress of Love offers viewers the opportunity to consider how they gauge their own experiences of love through its historical and contemporary conventions and expressions—and to compare their experiences to those in Africa today.”

Vance Muse or Gretchen Sammons, Menil Press Office
press [​at​] / T 713 535 3170 /

*Image above:
Yinka Shonibare, MBE, The Swing (after Fragonard). © 2012 Yinka Shonibare, MBE. 
Courtesy of the artist, Stephen Friedman Gallery, London, and James Cohan Galley, New York/Shanghai. Courtesy Tate Modern, London.

The Progress of Love at The Menil Collection
Menil Collection
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