Wednesday, March 21, 2012

El Salahi's Retrospective opens at Sharjah Art Museum

Ibrahim El Salah, The Last Sound, 1964 (Courtesy, the artist)
Finally, finally, Ibrahim El Salahi: Visionary Modernist, the long-awaited retrospective of arguably the most influential African modernist artist, the Sudanese Ibrahim El Salahi opened two days ago at the Sharjah Art Museum.The brainchild of my friend Salah Hassan (Goldwin Smith Professor at Cornell University), this show has had many lives, which says something about the difficulty of realizing major museum shows of modern African artists (and I don't mean the hot, more commercially viable contemporary artists most institutions tend to focus on). Salah had proposed this same show to at least three other museums all of which, after dithering, waived it by; until, thankfully the New York-based Museum for African Art came on board.
As it happens, El Salahi's show was supposed to be one of  the Museum for African Art's three exhibitions inaugurating its  new space on 5th Avenue. I worry though that, like the other two shows--Dynasty and Divinity: Ife Art in Ancient Nigeria, and  El Anatsui: When I Last Wrote to You about Africa--it is quite likely that the El Salahi retrospective (which closes in May) will not be seen in New York after all. Which will be very unfortunate, because given his stature as a modernist it is regrettable, that African artists of his generation continue to exist in the purgatory or waiting room of the mainstream artworld. 
Moreover, I have often wondered: what if Salah had not, with the zeal that transcends mere academic interest, insisted against all the odds, and after many years, on finding a host for this show? What if he had not pressed on, given the slow pace of completing the NY Museum (which I suspect had something to do with the economic depression of three years ago), and got the commitment of the Sharjah Art Museum? Does it mean that this one major museum exhibition of an incredible, incomparable artist who turns 82 this year might not have happened? Ah, the work waiting to be done!
In the meantime, I say to Salah, thank you for keeping faith with the 1994 Charter; to Salahi for his stupendous work and legendary career, and not least to the Museum for African Art for its commitment to this project.

\ | Sudanese artist to go on show

Monday, March 19, 2012

Justice for Trayvon Martin

On the face of it, this story about the killing of a black youth Trayvon Martin really, really stinks. I cannot see why Martin's killer of George Zimmerman--a man who was sternly advised by a dispatcher to not follow the young man--should not have been booked, investigated and prosecuted. In stead the police took his story, and saw no reason to prosecute him. But the big question is, how come the police believed the killer's incredible story of self defense, when he clearly trailed Martin, perhaps accosted him, and in the fight that ensued, shot him. Trayvon was unarmed. Is the law failing Trayvon Martin and his family? Do we need to have massive protests to force the authorities in South Florida to investigate and arraign Martin's killer, and let the courts determine the legality of his action and the credibility of his self-defense claim. The longer it takes to prosecute the Mr. Zimmerman, the more likely this case will awaken ghastly ghosts of old Southern racial injustice. Justice calls! But will the authorities in Florida listen soon enough?  

Trayvon Martin Family Seeks FBI Investigation of Killing by Neighborhood Watchman - Yahoo! News

Friday, March 16, 2012

OBAMA 2012!

Lest we forget the past four years,
Watch this

Thursday, March 15, 2012

MAPPING MODERNISMS: Transcultural Exchange in 20th Century Global Art

Thursday May 10, 2012: 9am to 5pm
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

The Mapping Modernisms symposium is the first of a series of international meetings that will be held over the next four years to explore the global emergence of multiple forms of artistic modernism during the 20th century. In this launch symposium leading scholars from Africa, North America, Europe, New Zealand and Australia will present pioneering research on Maori, Australian Aboriginal, South African, West African, AfricanAmerican, Canadian Aboriginal, Pacific Islands and Papua New Guinea modern arts.
Their talks will map the ways in which the global patterns of travel and circulation of artists, mentors and ideas resulted in unique extensions, enrichments, and reinventions of the modern in art. The symposium is being convened by Ruth Phillips and Elizabeth Harney. Further program details will be provided on the conference website

Bill Anthes (Pitzer College, Los Angeles) 
Peter Brunt (Victoria University, New Zealand) 
Elizabeth Harney (University of Toronto)
Sandra Klopper (University of Cape Town, South Africa)
Ian McLean (University of Wollongong, Australia)
Kobena Mercer (Yale Univesity)
Anitra Nettleton (University of Witwatersrand, South Africa)
Chika OkekeAgulu (Princeton University)
Ruth Phillips (Carleton University)
W. Jackson Rushing III (University of Oklahoma)
Nicholas Thomas (University of Cambridge)
Susan Vogel (Columbia University)
Norman Vorano (Canadian Museum of Civilization) 

An evening reception hosted by the Canadian Museum of Civilization will follow the symposium. It will feature a roundtable discussion in which members of the Aboriginal Curatorial Collective will respond to the day's presentations from the perspective of Canadian Aboriginal modernisms. This evening event will enable attendees to meet the symposium speakers and continue discussion informally over a light supper. It is designed to encourage the formation of a network of scholars, curators, artists, cultural officers and teachers with shared interests in multiple modernisms who can generate and participate in future projects and symposia. As places for the evening event are limited, please email us at by April 10th stating your desire to attend and outlining your interest in multiple modernisms.

Registration Fees: $25 fullyemployed; $10 students or underemployed; free for NGC & CMC staff
Advance registration begins on our website Saturday March 10th