I’m proud to announce my new venture: Duende Art Projects. My brand new gallery’s ambition is to inspire people and enrich their lives by sharing a profound passion for the art of the African continent. My purpose is to strengthen Africa’s visibility and significance within the global and diverse art world through a strong digital presence and frequent curated exhibitions on unique locations.
Duende is a Spanish word that is difficult to translate; it is a concept related to flamenco, referring to a magical moment of inspiration and genius. It is the heightened state of emotion when encountering a moving work of art, a sudden experience that can’t be captured, a moment of goosebumps. While Spanish in origin, the word has an African ring to it too – indeed it is a universal concept, and indicative for the gallery’s ambitions. Duende Art Projects goes beyond labels and reveals the art’s multiplicity of layers.
The gallery wants to open up the western-dominated perspective in the art world, and offers a well-rounded and fresh take on African art, both traditional and contemporary. Establishing strategic collaborations with other galleries and institutions worldwide, it wishes to create opportunities to support and promote art and artists from the African continent. The gallery strives to advance the careers of the artists whom we collaborate with and strengthen their international exposure.
Our mission is to connect people – the curious and interested, aspiring and seasoned collectors, connoisseurs, emerging and renowned artists, art advisors, curators and writers – with art from the African continent and its diaspora. We facilitate easy access through compellingly curated exhibitions – offline and online, in Antwerp and on location. We offer a bespoke and discrete art advisory service that covers all aspects of building and managing a collection. The online platform provides insightful educational content and wishes to be a home for ideas, news and stories.
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My first exhibition THREADS is scheduled for October 1st until November 14th 2021, and will be held in the 14th century Zwartzusters monastery in the historic city centre of Antwerp.
For its inaugural exhibition THREADS, Duende Art Projects presents an empowering juxtaposition of both classical and contemporary art from the African continent. Rarely exhibited together, and generally considered to be different collecting categories, Duende Art Projects brings both old and new work from the African continent together in the unique setting of a 14th century monastery in the historic centre of Antwerp.
THREADS will gather a group of masterpieces, both old and new, with a shared sensibility and a powerful message. One of the anchors of the exhibition will be an important and monumental tapestry by El Anatsui. In his “Man’s Cloth II” from 2006, El Anatsui effectively created a contemporary work of art inspired by traditional royal Kente cloths from Ghana, connecting the individual and collective threads of the African continent while referencing its history, consumption and globalisation.
A work of art often begins with a stray thread; the artist pulls, and waits to see what will happen when he explores a certain idea. An artist dares to go beyond the known, challenges the idea over and over again, until one string succeeds in becoming a patchwork of threads bound together into a masterpiece. Artworks are collisions of ideas. Multiple threads may be floating in the artist’s consciousness, and, in just a single moment, these ideas collide and form a work of art. Artists weave together seemingly disparate but related threads into rich works of art with a multitude of layers loaded with meaning and symbolism. Some of these threads might be easily identifiable and explicit, while others are not so obvious, they might be invisible to the naked eye, yet they unconsciously nest themselves under one’s skin. These invisible threads could be the strongest ties, but the hardest to grasp.
Unraveling the threads of a work of art can be a challenging undertaking, especially when the creator remains anonymous, as is the case with most classical African art. Ritually, traditional objects served a specific purpose and functioned within a well-defined context. As conveyed by the French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss’, looking at the single elements is critical to get an understanding of a system as a whole. As such, traditional African art could be a key to unlocking a better understanding of the contemporary art landscape.
Besides El Anatsui, THREADS will include works by Abdoulaye Konaté, Kimathi Mafafo, Tuli Mekondjo, Sizwe Sibisi and Saidou Dicko, as well as a museum-quality group of Fante asofo flags, a stunning ensemble of egungun dance costumes and an exceptional 16th century Kongo trumpet.