New exhibition by GEORGES ADEAGBO

New exhibition by GEORGES ADEAGBO

MAK – Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna

Georges Adéagbo. The Colonization and the History of the Colonized
© Stephan Köhler/MAK, 2009

March 30, 2009

The Colonization and the History of the Colonized

April 1 – September 13, 2009

MAK Gallery
Stubenring 5
1010 Vienna

Georges Adéagbo, born 1942 in Cotonou, Benin, counts among the most important artists of West Africa. In 1999, he took part in the 48th Venice Biennale where he received the “Premio della giuria”, and in 2002, he was a participant of the documenta 11 (under the curatorship of Okwui Enwezor). In 2008, he was the first contemporary artist ever to make an intervention on the premises of the Museo di Palazzo Vecchio in Florence.

From April 1, 2009, the MAK presents “archival” installations of the artist best known for his assemblages, in which he brings together different information carriers such as books, handwritten notes, photos, textiles, cult objects etc. arranging them into new narrative spaces. If Adéagbo incorporates sculptures in his work, which, from a European perspective, are labeled as “tribal art” or “primitivism”, the issue in fact is the re-conquering and repossession of previously “colonized” objects. His elaborate art-making process reaches out across boundaries between epochs, continents, cultures, and genres, starting out from the art of Africa and Oceania; the subjects that he addresses include religions, war, socialism, slavery, art, and history, as well as the stories of—mostly male—historical personalities.

For the MAK Gallery, Adéagbo is planning to cover the floor and walls with an “assemblage-like” installation, visualizing the history of colonization and the colonized in an arrangement of materials in rare density. Moreover, he will reach out beyond his own exhibition by intervening directly in sections of the MAK permanent exhibition which he will examine for colonial implications. In the room of the museum’s Permanent Collection Baroque Rococo Classicism (with an artistic intervention by Donald Judd), for example, he will respond to a mid-18th century cabinet, a present made by the town of Eger to Emperor Karl VI. As a piece of so-called state furniture, it represents symbolically a claim to hegemony over all continents, the meaning of which Adéagbo examines, questions, and transforms in various different ways.

Adéagbo is well aware of the purposive character of the objects, but achieves the necessary artistic transformation precisely by placing them in new contexts, or unfolding new contexts, courageously altering history by re-telling it in a different way. His working method is based on combining objects made for him in Benin and others which he finds at or around the exhibition site and incorporates in his work; the pieces thus created always define a concrete frame of reference.

Georges Adéagbo was born as the oldest of eleven children in Cotonou, the largest city of Benin in West Africa. Against the wishes of his family, he went to study law in Abidjan, Côte D’Ivoire, and in Rouen, France. After the death of his father, his family urged him to return to Benin in 1971 where he lived in impoverished conditions. From this time until 1993, he created a large number of assemblages in his house, which happened to come to the attention of a French curator. Many important exhibitions followed.

Stubenring 5
1010 Vienna

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MAK - Austrian Museum of Applied Arts / Contemporary Art

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MAK – Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna
March 30, 2009

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