The critically acclaimed Senegalese contemporary artist Omar Victor Diop is coming to Fotografiska Tallinn this winter. His striking photographs capture modern African sensibilities, and often focus on a recasting of history, the representation of diasporic experiences and global politics of black resistance.
Omar Victor Diop, Allegoria 5, 2021. Courtesy of the artist and Fotografiska Tallinn.
Combining photography with other art forms, Omar Victor Diop’s remarkable body of work includes fine art, fashion, design, and portrait photography. Using artistic self-portraiture as a key tool to engage with complex representational politics, community embodiment and ideas of self-fashioning, his practice is characterised by meticulously staged, dramatic imagery in which the artist himself appears as the main visual protagonist and interlocutor.
This exhibition presents – brought together for the first time – three distinct yet interconnected emblematic bodies of works completed between 2014–2021: Allegoria, Diaspora, and Liberty, alongside an Autograph artist commission.
Diaspora (2014) draws inspiration from 15th to 19th century Western portraits depicting a diverse constituency of black figures who have risen to prominence in courts, science, politics, and social movements in Europe – yet often missing from conventional narratives. Largely based on historical paintings, which Diop imbues with playful contemporary references, the series celebrates four centuries of notable Africans with extraordinary lives in the diaspora.
In Liberty (2017), subtitled A Universal Chronology of Black Protest, the artist reinterprets significant moments of historical revolt associated with the struggle for black freedom – from anti-Apartheid movements in South Africa to civil right campaigns in America, the Caribbean and Europe to contemporary Black Lives Matter politics, exploring what unifies and defines these ongoing, global fights for equality and human rights.
Diop’s most recent project Allegoria (2021), imaginatively addresses the climate crisis and its impact on the Global South and the African continent especially. In these vibrant metaphorical, paradisiacal images, Diop is pictured amidst stunning imagery of carefully constructed flora and fauna. Here, openly borrowing from genres that include classical painting, religious iconography and West African photographic studio portraiture, as well as science textbooks and encyclopaedia, the artist considered the fate of humanity in the wake of natural disasters and environmental decline, asking how we may secure more viable, liveable futures together.
In 2018, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the HMT Empire Windrush, Autograph invited Diop to create two new artworks in response to iconic archive images in their collection. The Windrush portraits capture West Indian migrants from the Caribbean beginning a new life in Great Britain in the late 1940s: a watershed moment at first filled with hope and anticipation, soon followed by the harsh reality of discrimination, hardship and unemployment.
Omar Victor Diop is based on a 2018 exhibition by Autograph, originally presented in London (co-curated by Renée Mussai and Mark Sealy), this touring iteration for Fotografiska is curated by Renée Mussai and reflects the accompanying monograph Omar Victor Diop (5 Continents Editions, 2021). This exhibition is produced for Fotografiska Stockholm by Johan Vikner in collaboration with Autograph, London and Gallery MAGNIN-A, Paris.
The exhibition is on view from the 25th of August until the 26th of November, 2023. For more information, please visit Fotografiska.