a call to the west


Name an African artist. Name two more. It’s a struggle: African art still has the most minor presence in the world’s museums, biennales, galleries. And when we do see it, too often it lacks the context for us to make sense of it. Tate Modern’s double show of Sudan-born Ibrahim el-Salahi, who lives in Oxford, and Meschac Gaba, based between Benin and the Netherlands, acknowledges this. An exhibition of muted, introverted visionary painting is set against a loud, bright deconstruction of social currency – the same contrast, as it happens, that Tate Britain negotiates in its summer shows devoted to L.S. Lowry versus Patrick Caulfield. But while Millbank luxuriates in familiar-name blockbusters, Bankside sets out to break preconceptions and clichés, for the first time according two Africans the large-scale singular exhibitions customarily devoted to western artists. In the 1960s el-Salahi was shown at New York’s Museum of Modern Art alongside Picasso and Mark Rothko but he is unfamiliar on today’s art circuit.

more from Jackie Wullschlager at the FT here.