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Germaine Krull, from industry to aesthetics

The German photographer Germaine Krull owes her reputation as an avant-garde artist to her work Metal. Until 10 June, Munich’s Pinakothek der Moderne is devoting a huge exhibition to her. An interview with Simone Förster, curator for the Ann and Jürgen Wilde Foundation behind this exhibition.   Over her life, almost 90 years long, Germaine Krull lived on four continents. Could you retrace the different stages of her life? Germaine Krull was born in Poznan, Poland, in 1897, and moved many times during her childhood. Her family lived in Italy, France, Switzerland and Austria. She arrived in Germany when she was a teenager, where she studied photography, and then she opened a studio in Munich. Because of her political stance during the Bavarian revolution, she was expelled from Germany in 1920. After, she went to Russia, where she stood up alongside the Communists. But she was deemed a counter-revolutionary there, and was imprisoned and expelled from the USSR. After stints in Berlin and Amsterdam, she settled in Paris, where she opened a portrait and fashion photography studio. It was also during this period that she produced her work Metal. Next, she worked as a war reporter, declared her opposition to the Vichy regime, and became a journalist-photographer in Congo-Brazzaville. Germaine Krull then left for Thailand where she managed a hotel for around twenty years. When she was already getting on in years, she moved to India to support Tibetan refugees, before returning to be with her sister in Germany, where she died in 1985.   What role did France play in this artist’s career? It was in Paris that Germaine Krull made a name for herself as an avant-garde artist and photographer, with her Metal portfolio, produced in 1928. The part of her work for which she is appreciated...

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Miguel Chevalier: bits & cells

He’s one of the pioneers in virtual and digital art. He tackles the question of intangibility and computer-led logic. Hybridity, generativeness and networking are at the heart of his research… An hour in the company of Miguel Chevalier, an observer of the flows dear to our contemporary society.   It’s at La Fabrika, his big studio in Ivry-sur-Seine (and so named in homage to another famous studio), that Miguel Chevalier designs his works. All around, you’ll see prototypes, 3D prints, projectors and projections…  This spring, his studio is a hive of activity as he gets set for several solo shows (at the submarine base in Bordeaux and a double event in London, at the Mayor and Wilmotte Galleries). Miguel Chevalier is also taking part in major group exhibitions, namely “Artistes & Robots” at the Grand Palais, and “AI Musiqa” at the Philharmonie de Paris.   The exhibition “Digital Abysses”, recently launched at the submarine base in Bordeaux, with ten installations and a hundred or so works spread out over 3500 square metres, is one of your largest to date… That’s right, this is my biggest exhibition to date. The submarine base is an unusual site, constructed at the end of World War II. I didn’t want to illustrate the memories of the place, but rather, work on the relationship with water and the great depths and abysses in which U-boats plunged. The large printed fabric Atlantide (25 x 9 metres) opens the exhibition, emerging as the floor of the base’s first pool. Then, we arrive at the bunker’s entrance – a spot that’s all the more interesting as it immerses visitors in darkness and comprises numerous spaces on different scales. I drew inspiration from plankton and all sorts of aquatic microorganisms, such as radiolarians and protozoa that are observable...

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Africa and its diaspora: convergences

It’s not that easy to put a finger on the relationship between African artists and those from the African diaspora. In a globalised world in which African centres are increasingly dynamic, couldn’t it be said that we are currently witnessing a convergence of forms and sources of inspiration? When referring to African artistic creation, Sudanese painter Ibrahim el-Salahi – who, along with Ahmed Shibrain and Kamala Ishag, founded the Khartoum School – uses the image of the tree. A tree has roots, a trunk and branches. And in his view, many artists from Africa or the African diaspora experiment with global issues and forms (branches), but also feel the need to bear in mind where they come from and relate their work to their origins (roots)… Defining “contemporary African art” and distinguishing it from (or likening it to) that of the continent’s diaspora potentially opens up a can of worms. The risk is to oversimplify it, or else to put everything into the one box. “We can only use this expression if we don’t claim that there’s only one way to make art, and if we avoid speaking about African art and African identity in the singular,” explains Rocco Orlacchio, director of the Voice Gallery, in Marrakech, which he founded in 2011 and whose objective is to stifle the resurgence of orientalist tendencies. According to curator Marie-Ann Yemsi, who headed up the 11th edition of the Bamako Encounters, “one of the major issues today is to de-exoticise gazes, to debunk misconceptions and unravel them in order to show Africa as it is. Stripped of fantasies.” Indeed, Africa comprises 54 countries and a wide range of increasingly numerous artistic centres, historically Niger, Senegal, Morocco and South Africa. And beyond the generalities that gloss over reality, the question of origins is also...

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Dakar in the red hour

Until 2 June, the 13th edition of the Biennial of Dakar – Dak’art – is being held in Senegal. Over one month, dozens of artists and curators are getting the African capital to swing to the rhythm of contemporary art. An international-scale event reflecting growing interest in contemporary art on the African continent. Two years ago, the Biennial of Dakar paid homage to Léopold Sédar Senghor by choosing the theme “The City in the Blue Day”. In 2018, a new look at négritude is on the programme, with a change in colour to boot… This year, Dak’art is paying homage to Aimé Césaire and shifting to “the Red Hour”. The formula is poetic and socially aware: it is an invitation to evasion and anger. But could things be otherwise with Césaire? “The red hour” is an expression drawn from the play Et les chiens se taisaient, written in 1946. A text that broaches themes dear to the African author, such as emancipation, freedom and responsibility. A key event in African cultural life, Dak’art 2018 is placed under the dual banner of cultural and political affirmation. The event is being organised under the high patronage of the president of the Republic of Senegal, Macky Sall. In addition, the Biennale is being supported, at a rate of 75 %, by the country’s Ministry of Culture, headed up by Abdou Latif Coulibaly. A rate of State commitment that may well leave some in Europe or America wistful. Senegalese authorities have understood the importance of the cultural field in handling the issue of identity. Not so long ago, the Minister of Culture commented that the 2018 edition of Dak’art would be placed “under the double banner of consolidating achievements and innovation”. Its promotion of African creativity on an international scale thus allows the...

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Naomi Beckwith, a curator to watch

At barely 41 years old, Naomi Beckwith is an African-American curator who is taking the other side of the Atlantic by storm thanks to her refreshing, all-embracing vision of today’s art. In Chicago, an interview with a woman whose social awareness underlines her inspiring take on her profession.   When the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Chicago recently celebrated its 50th year, Naomi Beckwith was part of the team that organised its three-part “We are Here” birthday exhibition. A jury member of the 2015 Venice Biennale, this young curator at the MCA Chicago since 2011 is the inaugural winner of the VIA Art Fund Curatorial Fellowship grant, aimed at promoting promising artistic projects. And let’s not forget that in March 2017, she chaired the first curatorial leadership summit at New York’s Armory Show. An opportunity for AMA to shed light on her current role at the MCA and to discover her singular perspective on curatorship.   Naomi Beckwith, what did you do before becoming curator at the MCA Chicago? I was in New York, at the Studio Museum in Harlem. I managed the artist-residency programme and I worked on cultural projects relating to African-American identity, aesthetic minorities, but also current practices on a global scale.   The MCA Chicago is considered to be one of the most influential museums in the United States, with an extensive “historic” collection of contemporary art, ever since its creation in 1967.  What were your goals when you arrived there in 2011? I was coming home so to speak, because I was born and raised in the Windy City! I wanted to develop solo shows with established artists, but above all, to set up exhibitions on young emerging artists who have never been shown. But my current exhibition, “Howardena Pindell: What remains to be...

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The Modern, the Classic and the Indian

In Paris this spring, tribute is being paid to Gérard Garouste by three exhibitions. At the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature, at the Beaux-Arts, and at the Galerie Templon… The chosen theme, “Zeugma”, creates a bridge between the collective and the individual, myth and its commentary. Find out more… In the 1980s, Alain Pacadis, the punk dandy behind the Palace nightclub described Gérard Garouste as “the artist who paints his wife and his dog”. The artist hadn’t yet evolved into the giant he would become – a top-notch status that was confirmed in December 2017 when the Académie des Beaux-Arts voted him in as an academy member, succeeding Georges Mathieu. In the 1980s, the young artist was just emerging from a few shady twists and turns of existence, and was painting to survive, possibly less for financial reasons than in an urgent response to life. Over 30 years later, things haven’t changed much. It is still Élizabeth who we find as Garouste’s Diana at the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature. This time, Garouste himself plays the role of Actaeon. The theme of Diana and Actaeon is one that has cropped up on many a canvas, notably handled by Titian, Luca Giordano, François Boucher and Cavaliere d’Arpino. All variations on a myth recounted in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, in which Actaeon surprises the goddess Diana while she is taking a bath in the company of her attendants. Failing to keep herself from the man’s sight, she blushes and throws water in his face, transforming him into a stag, whose fate is to be hunted and devoured by dogs. Gérard Garouste has taken a few liberties with the myth. His Actaeon is a wild zoophile who violates the animals before he is transformed and dies in their...

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