„Art/Afrique, Le Nouvel Atelier“ at Fondation Louis Vuitton Paris

„There is no second chance to make a first impression“ – while it is debatable if this proverb applies to humans, the initial view of a building with its facade and overall architecture leaves a substantial mark in one’s mind. Located in the Bois de Boulogne, near the „Jardin d’Acclimatation,“ the Fondation Louis Vuitton is an architectural landmark that astounds from looking from every direction. Star-architect Frank Gehry took inspiration from sails, boats, and balls of paper which translates the heaviness of this massive building into a featherlight complex, ready to host exhibitions and show the company collection of LVMH’s Louis Vuitton brand. It was Bernard Arnault’s passion that builtit, and it quickly became an integral part of Paris’s museum-scene.
Following the art-blockbuster show the Chtchoukine-collection, the exhibition „Art/Afrique, Le Nouvel Atelier“ is currently on display.
Starting in the basement, the intricate sculpture from John Goba immediately catches one’s eye. Adorned with porcupine quills, the wooden statues remind us of astrolabes or dendrites.  The artist from Sierra Leone is influenced by the typical wood sculpting of the country’s forest communities.

Artwork by John Goba

Introducing some Afro-Futuristic aesthetic, Athi Patra Ruga was represented in the exhibition with a series of woven carpets representing a half-spiritual saga conceived by Patra Ruga himself; the South-African introduces the second stage of his career. He is probably best known for his performances and his creation of modern avatars.The carpets show hybrid identities, oscillating between presence, future, and past. Portraits that remind of Gaugin and Bladerunner at the same time. The splendid colors and the expressive, dominant female characters give strength to these votive-like takpestries.

Artwork by Athi Patra Ruga

Fusing leather, wood, and ribbons, the South African artist Nicholas Hlobo negotiates issues of gender and identity while also dealing with the beliefs and rites of the Xhosa-Culture. Hlobo is part of this big South-African community, and his artworks are never shy of incorporating a symbolic-level of politics.While stitching is traditionally associated with women and domesticity, the male artist Hlobo makes use of this technique to blur gender confines.

Artwork by Nicolas Hlobo

Finally, as one exits the exhibition, the giant flower of Isa Genzken comes into sight. The artwork is part of the permanent collection and adorns the generous foyer. To see the flower was a special treat for me, as I visited the foundry Sitterwerk where the sculpture was cast in St. Gallen last year.

Artwork by Isa Genzken


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