“What exactly is an ‘African artist’?” curators Julia Grosse and Yvette Mutumba asked in an email to The Huffington Post. “Someone who grew up in Johannesburg, studied in London and has galleries in Italy and Germany?”
Grosse and Mutumba are the curators of “Focus: African Perspectives,” this year’s rendition of “Armory Focus,” which spotlights art from a specific region every year during the historic Armory Show in New York City. This year’s edition will feature young contemporary artists, born between the late 1970s and early 1990s, working in the African content or diaspora. It will feature galleries from Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, Kenya and Nigeria, as well as those from New York.
In the past couple of years, African contemporary art has entered the art world’s main stage in a big way. Thanks to fairs like 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair and the Dakar Biennale, museums like MoCADA, and exhibitions like “Disguise: Masks and Global African Art,” African artists are reaching larger audiences and higher values.
With this newfound success, however, comes misunderstandings. As Grosse and Mutumba put it: “With this rather new attention, unfortunately, too often comes an idea of ‘African Art’ or ‘the African artist’ as if a continent with 54 states was a country with a completely homogenous art scene. We advocate the idea that, as a matter of fact, there is no ‘African Art’ in that sense. The work of a conceptual artist in Harare is very different from what a performance artist in Nairobi or a painter in Kampala produces.”
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