restricted access INTRODUCTION: Dakar’s Art World City
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1 Introduction: Dakar’s Art World City Within a few months of arriving for my first stay in Dakar in 1998, I had amassed an untidy stack of invitation cards to exhibition openings and other art events in various neighborhoods across the city. When I asked my new colleague Abdoulaye about these artistic events, he assured me that all of this was standard fare. “C’est normal,” he told me in a tone of casual elegance. “This is animation artistique in Dakar.” My response vacillated between intrigue and bewilderment. Animation artistique? Although it was not entirely clear to me at that moment, his pithy explanation offered something of a revelation. These events were more than sites for artists to show their work or for a researcher to participate in her project. They were gathering sites where the city’s art scene—artists, journalists , critics, animateurs d’art, diplomats, and collectors—made itself visible. My bewilderment was due mostly to the large number of artists and the impressive range of events. Based on what I had read in preparation for this trip, I had not expected this degree of activity. My preliminary research had impressed on me that I should expect little to no infrastructure for the arts because former president Léopold Sédar Senghor’s famously robust post-independence era subvention had come to an end when he left office in 1980. I assumed I would meet artists who were, at best, struggling to make, exhibit, and sell their art. I certain- Art World City 2 ly did not expect to encounter an art scene animated within and, as I propose in this book, because of the city. In the years since I initiated my research in Dakar, the city’s art scene has capitalized on another scale of visibility with increasing vigor. Dakar has come to be seen as one of the African continent’s premier sites for contemporary artistic expression and a critical node in an ever-globalizing art world. Along with the Dak’Art Biennale’s context of entrée for art world travelers to visit the city, intensified art world globalization in the 1990s had significant implications for artists in Dakar and Africa more generally. Whereas in the 1990s, the participation of Dakar-based artists in global art world platforms might have been described as emergent at best, in the twenty-first century many more artists from Dakar have been represented in blockbuster international exhibitions and high-profile biennales (biennial art exhibitions) outside Dakar. A snapshot of artists’ participation in such events in 2015 makes this point: Cheikh Ndiaye and Fatou Kandé Senghor were featured at the Venice Biennale; Ndary Lo and Cheikh Niass had artwork in “The Divine Comedy,” originating at the Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt am Main and traveling to the National Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian Institution; Soly Ciss é exhibited in São Paulo’s Museu Afro Brasil; El Hadji Sy was the subject of a retrospective solo exhibition at the Weltkulturen Museum in Frankfurt; and Figure 0.1. Cheikh Ndiaye, Blancheur Rigide Dérisoire en Opposition au Ciel, 2015. Mixedmedia installation (wood, industrial paint) at the Venice Biennale, 2015. Photograph courtesy of the artist. Introduction 3 Cheikh Ndiaye, Soly Cissé, and Omar Victor Diop participated in the 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair in New York and London. Artists’ participation in exhibitions in Dakar and global art platforms exemplifies that the city’s contemporary creative economy is at once locally oriented and globally enmeshed. The productive interlacing of these two geospatial and analytical spheres—Dakar’s art scene and platforms designated as part of the global art world—is the subject of this book. Focusing on the imbrication of the art scene in the city and the city in the globalartworld,IexaminehowandwhytheurbanandglobalintersectinDakar. My central assertion is that the city’s art scene emerges from and is shaped by the opportunities of urban life. This means that Dakar’s urban status also makes its global intersections possible, creating the context that brings artists and their propositions into conversation with other art scenes and urban centers. Several sites associated with artistic production, exhibition, and sale are critical to mediating local urban and global art worlds. They include the exhibitions that populate the art world calendar throughout the year; the Dak’Art Biennale, which takes place every two years; the narratives and networks that form within artists’ studios; the art market that takes shape when artists and buyers transact...


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Subject Headings

  • Dak'art (Exhibition).
  • Art, Modern -- 21st century.
  • Art, Modern -- 20th century.
  • Art, Senegalese -- 21st century.
  • Art, Senegalese -- 20th century.
  • Artists -- Senegal -- Dakar.
  • Art -- Senegal -- Dakar -- Exhibitions.
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