Major figure on the African artistic scene, Sammy Baloji has been invited by the Festival d'Automne à Paris and Beaux-Arts de Paris, as part of the Africa 2020 season, to present his first solo exhibition in a Parisian institution. Resident at the Villa Medici in Rome in 2019, he presents the results of his research on the political, religious and commercial exchanges that took place between the Kongo kingdom, Portugal and the Vatican as early as the 16th century.
The exhibition brings together two groups of works: a set of drawings and objects made from motifs borrowed from Kongo fabrics, and a selection of tapestries that are part of famous Indian hangings.
Whether by the artist's hand or simply borrowed, these works bear witness to the complexity of a history of exchanges, transactions and exploitation. They show the contextual and institutional effects of a narrative written by Europe and which has in turn treated these works as tools of diplomacy, works of art, ethnographic artefacts or simple decorative elements.
Sammy Baloji was born in 1978 in Lubumbashi (Democratic Republic of Congo). He lives and works between Lubumbashi and Brussels. He graduated in Information and Communication Sciences from the University of Lubumbashi and the Haute École des Arts du Rhin. Since September 2019, he has been conducting a PhD research in art at Sint Lucas Antwerpen entitled "Contemporary Kasala and Lukasa: towards a Reconfiguration of Identity and Geopolitics". He was a resident of the Académie de France in Rome - Villa Medici, in 2019-2020.
Over the past ten years, numerous monographic exhibitions have been devoted to his work: Lund Konsthall and Aarhus Kunsthal (2020), Le Point du Jour, Cherbourg (2019), Framer Framed, Amsterdam (2018), Museumcultuur Strombeek (2018), The Power Plant, Toronto and WIELS, Brussels (2016-2017). He has recently participated in several major international events: Sydney Biennial (2020), Documenta 14 (Cassel/Athens, 2017), Lyon Biennial (2015), Venice Biennial (2015).
This project is the result of a collective work in which :
- Lucrezia Cippitelli, art historian, for the documentary research on the Italian collections.
- Anne Lafont, art historian, author of an essay on the contextualization of these tapestries.
- Jean-Christophe Lanquetin, scenographer, for a research and development work around the staging of the exhibition.
- Yannick Luzuaki, painter, for the interpretation of Kongo fabrics on canvas.
Photo: Sophie Nuytten