EPILOGUE: Reflections on Dakar's Art World City: Infrastructures, Vision-Oriented Subjectivities, and Implications
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261 Two months prior to Dak’Art’s twelfth edition in 2016, I was preparing to send this book to the press when I received an invitation to join “a specially invited delegation” to Dak’Art. This group of curators, historians, gallerists, and collectors was to participate in special events, private meetings, exhibitions, and other Dak’Art programming. Organized by a marketing and branding agency in conjunction with the Biennale, the invitation also promised a “full tour throughout Dakar and surrounding provinces for an African cultural experience inclusive of Gorée Island, a safari game reserve, traditional markets, and more.”1 I was enticed by the proposition to attend “the only biennale of its kind on the continent ” and “discover a thriving metropolis and deeply rooted African traditions.” In the end, however, my inclination to write about this invitation’s implications was stronger than my desire to participate in what promised to be a fascinating experience. Several aspects of this invitation compel analysis. In addition to the rather ingenious packaging of the Dak’Art experience as a niche-market tourist experience , the invitation to join a special delegation to the Biennale put in high relief my central claim in this book about the imbrication of the urban creative economy and art world globalization. Dakar’s possibilities, platforms, and connections create the conditions for art world globalization. With the Biennale as Reflections on Dakar's Art World City: Infrastructures, Vision-Oriented Subjectivities, and Implications Art World City 262 a platform mediating urban and global scales, the Dak’Art tour exemplifies the productive interplay of the city’s creative economy, the tourist economy, and art worlding processes. The invitation offered a managed experience of the Biennale as well as the city and its environs to interested art enthusiasts and experts. The citywide animation artistique characterizing Dak’Art along with the area’s tourist activities ensured a dynamic and diverse itinerary. Moreover, those joining the tour would be in the company of other art enthusiasts and experts. This point is significant in light of what I have written in chapters 3 and 6 about the relationships and networks that underlie the art world city. The steady flow of art world traffic coming from many directions weaves the city’s creative economy with multiple interactions, contributing fundamentally to the pluralism characterizing Dakar’s art world city. Odds were good that the individuals in the special delegation would undertake conversations and cultivate relationships. Only the future will tell where they lead and whether they will be productive. Second, this invitation speaks volumes about infrastructure in relation to Dakar’s art world and the city. The Biennale tour emerged in response to the opportunities of the creative economy and the art world city, drawing attention back to my contention in chapter 6 about Dakar’s art market and other markets more generally. I have argued that opportunities for transaction materialize when interested parties interact and when supply and demand intersect, rather than because of the presence of brick-and-mortar institutions, such as galleries and auction houses. My reading of the Biennale tour stresses key assertions in urbanist scholarship about infrastructure and improvisation in African cities. In writing about infrastructure’s ontology, Brian Larkin defines infrastructures as “built networks that facilitate the flow of goods, people, or ideas and allow for their exchange over space.”2 His emphasis on relationships and collaboration is echoed in AbdouMaliq Simone’s reading of “people as infrastructure.”3 Both perspectives challenge and extend viewpoints that equate infrastructure with what is durable, formal, or permanent, such as highways, electrical grids, and water pipelines. They are a reminder that infrastructure is also responsive, improvisational, and contingent. These views resonate for Dakar’s art world city and for the Biennale tour because both take shape in response to the city’s creative economy and art world globalization. Epilogue 263 Because this book centers on the art scene of a city in Africa, it challenges widespread assumptions about the indexes of art world infrastructure. Instead of binding my analysis to the presence of galleries, auction houses, and museums or the visibility of Dakarois artists in art world institutions in Europe or North America, I have focused on artists who earn their living in Dakar and whose careers intersect with the sites of art world globalization. My concern is with the individuals making up the city’s art scene and their agency in creating Dakar’s art world city. This point is worth underscoring because...



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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