restricted access CHAPTER 3. A Place from Which to Speak: Artists’ Studios as Infrastructure of Opportunity
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97 We might think of artists’ studios primarily as spaces for making art, spaces where artists work in solitude with materials strewn across the floor and the din of tools emanating from behind closed doors. Despite the prevalence of this trope, the association of artists’ studios with origination and manufacture is only partially applicable to Dakar’s art world city.1 In addition to making art in their studios, artists in Dakar also use their studio space to display, store, and sell their art (see chapter 6). Most critical to my analysis in this chapter, artists use their studios to receive and dialogue with visitors, making the space simultaneously creative and relational. Because artists in Dakar devote a good amount of time to receiving visitors, artists’ studios are often high-traffic spaces. Diverse origins and intentions characterize studio traffic in Dakar. Along with Dakar-based art scene makers, a steady stream of art enthusiasts and global art world personalities visit artists’ studios. These visitors include curators looking for source material for exhibitions and art dealers looking for artists to represent, as well as art historians, anthropologists, and art writers seeking answers to various questions. After all, the studio is where we anticipate deepening or expanding what we know about artists and their propositions. Diplomatic groups escorted by an embassy’s cultural affairs specialist and students pursuing research for graduate degrees or in study abroad programs are also among the regular visitors to artists’ studios. chapter 3 Artists’ Studios as Infrastructure of Opportunity Art World City 98 In this chapter, I locate artists’ studios as a vital infrastructure of opportunity in Dakar’s art world city. Focusing on spatial and analytical viewpoints, I examine studios as sites that mediate and facilitate the processes of art world globalization . The chapter’s first theme is the authorizing and citationary nature of a studio’s interior space. In studios, objects, documents, and relationships both configure and generate narratives about artists and their work. In this space, artists consolidate a position from which to speak about their practices and histories . The chapter’s second theme is an examination of studios as sites from which artists create connections and insert themselves into larger art world circuitries, thereby illuminating how art world traffic contributes to the worlding of Dakar’s art scene. This chapter’s final theme is artists as travelers; I address the implications of travel for developing artists’ practices and making their careers. “Putting Sound on Objects”: Speaking about Art in Studio Visits As much as studio visits are predicated on visual discovery, they are also important locations for interviews and conversations with artists. Art historian and critic Michael Diers identifies “the studio visit as an iconographic trope of art history as well as a trope in the history of conversations with artists.”2 Diers’s comment highlights that studios are environments for the manufacture of art and the manufacture of narratives about the relevance of art and artists. In this space, visitors come to understand artists’ propositions by looking at them and talking about them, a practice that artist Abdoulaye Ndoye describes as “putting sound on objects.”3 Studio visitors ask questions about what they see, and many arrange visits with the express intention of inquiry. In turn, artists are expected to speak about themselves and their work. The Dakar-based artists with whom I have worked are fully aware of the expectation to speak authoritatively about their art during studio visits. When I asked Soly Cissé, one of Dakar’s most prolific and commercially successful artists, about studio traffic, he suggested that “visitors come to the studio because they want to see and hear more.”4 Artists are thus tasked with A Place from Which to Speak 99 narrativizing their work; they talk about their ideas and how they implement them as well as how their works relate to their histories and the development of their practices. Several artists have commented on the fact that visitors expect a work to be “polyphonic” and that visitors’ appreciation is informed by, if not contingent on, commentaries advanced during studio visits.5 Some of the most successful artists in Dakar are also the most skilled at talking about their work. Speaking well and just the right amount is the name of the game. Talking too much is considered crossing a fine line from being an artist to being a baratineur (sweet talker), a tendency exemplified by artists who “keep talking until a work becomes interesting.”6...


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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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