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Kunsthal KAdE will exhibits Carla and Pieter Schulting’s collection of African art.

Esiri Erheriene-Essi, Luster’s Pink Original, 2019. Oil, ink and xerox transfer on linen, 135 x 175 cm. Courtesy of the artist & Kunsthal KAdE.

Over the past five years, they have assembled an extensive collection of 170 artworks by 154 artists from 33 African countries and the African diaspora. The exhibition Africa Supernova presents a large cross-section of the collection, showing how diverse, complex and promising the artistic development of contemporary African art is.

Regions like South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, East Africa (Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia) and North Africa are strongly represented. With a focus on young artists most are in their thirties, a few in their early twenties – the exhibition is not a comprehensive overview of African art, but an anthology from an emerging art scene that has gained an increasingly prominent place in the international art firmament in recent years.

Together with Carla and Pieter Schulting we are eyewitnesses to the blossoming of a group of artists who are taking the art world by storm in the wake of a number of – now – big names. The focus is on painters, along with a number of sculptors and a growing focus on photography.

A history of many histories

On view is a group of painters, sculptors and photographers with both an intense figurative imagery and a love for outright abstraction. They present Africa from within and do so with great self-awareness and a sense for how the black body has been treated for centuries. “Contemporary African artists – from this awareness – fold past, present and future together in their work”, writes Azu Nwagbogu (co-curator Buro Stedelijk, Amsterdam) in his contribution to the catalog, “filling up a gap [read: wound] in representation that seems impossible to breach through the self-appropriation lent by figuration”.

Meanwhile, “it” is not merely a political and aesthetic statement, “it” is a matter of poise.” so says Nwagbogu. What he means by “poise” is the conscious construction of a visual language in contemporary African art that dignifies its subjects regardless of context. “The Black body is coloured with presence and written over with symbols of magnification. It is an element that is not only seen but felt in the visual production of the works in the Schulting collection,” Nwagbogu said.

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced,” said African-American novelist James Baldwin. Looking at the rich visual vocabulary of the African artists in the Schulting collection, one senses long histories, many experiences – including traumatic ones – and great stories ready to be told. Told from a personal perspective, often with the artists themselves or their friends at the center, but with universal overtones. A history of many histories, portrayed from specific points of view and individual cultural experiences.

What is African art?

In an interview for the catalog accompanying this exhibition, Carla and Pieter Schulting talk about their collection and their motivation behind collecting African art.

Pieter Schulting: “What is African art?’ There is actually no such thing, because it is so diverse. An artist from Morocco can make a very different work than an artist from South Africa. It’s a huge continent, of course, and we also want to show that there are these huge differences. I myself, since we started collecting African art, have also gained a different perspective on the continent. Discovering the artworks and meeting people from many different African countries has been very educational and inspiring.”

Carla Schulting: “The title Africa Supernova reflects on how in recent years the art of the African continent has taken the global art world by storm, much like an explosion. We are only just beginning to discover what the African continent has in store for us. The title was invented by the Nigerian curator Azu Nwagbogu, who will be curating the Benin pavilion for next year’s Venice Biennale. This title sums up very well that our collection cannot easily be categorised, it is so varied and diverse. We only show works that we love, that have touched our hearts. It is an explosion of creativity, and that is exactly what we want to show.”

Pieter Schulting: “We want this exhibition to provide an overview of the young artists who are now putting Africa on the global art map. We think that when you look back in twenty years, this period will be a part of art history.”

The catalog consists of 232 fully illustrated pages featuring their entire collection of art from Africa and the diaspora. In addition to the interview, it contains two essays, by Azu Nwagbogu and Raphael Dapaah, and about 150 biographies of the artists in the collection.

Africa Supernova. Collection contemporary African art of Carla & Pieter Schulting is on display at Kunsthal KAdE in Amersfoort in the Netherlands from the 24th of September, 2023, until the 7th of January, 2024. For more information, please visit Kunsthal KAdE.

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