Monthly Archives: October 2013

Musée Maison in Harlem, NY

Recently I received an invitation to IMG_5482a reception at Musée Maison, in the historic section of Harlem, Hamilton Heights.
Luis Da Cruz, an architect by training, born in Portugal, renovated a rundown brownstone on 148th Street, that he decorated with his own original designed objects, and that is now the location for his home, as well as a studio and workshop on the lower floor (with a separate entrance). Luis speaks fluent French on top of his native Portuguese and English, as he grew up in France, and studied in Brittany and in Paris. He started his career working with Pierre Cardin on all of his real estate holdings in various parts of the world. He arrived in New York in the 1990s and launched his own interior design and coordinating company.

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Luis Da Cruz

For the opening reception, the entire house was a showroom,  a backdrop for his inventions made with reused objects. Mattress frames are re-purposed as canopies, electrical conduit is used to make lamps, extension cords are wrapped in wool yarn or rope… and so much more. Other charming touches are the collection of cups and saucers, the piles of fabrics… The art on the walls is curated by Luis.

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Ceiling above bath area on the 3rd floor

IMG_5503Luis himself is welcoming and charming, and whether we were old friends or had just met, we were made to feel at home. I encourage everyone to contact him to come by and see what extraordinary designs he has to offer.

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The hors d’oeuvres for the reception- simple, but so elegantly presented, that they seemed to be the essence of luxury!

Quai Branly Museum in Paris

Paris boasts a modern museum whose core permanent exhibitions are of traditional art in Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas. The Musée du Quai Branly, located close to the Eiffel Tower, is a modern and “green” structure opened to the public in 2006.

Quai Branly Museum street view
La Rivière

Entering the museum is in itself an adventure–first through outdoor winding paths, in the garden, and then an interior winding path, in itself a work of art called the “River” showing words projected in the ground, moving like water.
It’s quite a trip to reach the top, where the entrance to the permanent exhibits is, as well as to the current exhibition, “The Art of Hair.”

Below are a few photos of the Africa section. As usual in all African traditional art exhibits, there are many pieces from the Grassland Bamiléké region’s prolific artists. However, to my great surprise, there was one piece, not just from Douala, but specifically from Deido, my husband’s home neighborhood! (Douala used to be 3 villages: Bonanjo, Akwa, and Deido.) Duala art is rarely shown in museums, and I don’t know whether there are many pieces around the world. In this case, a dugout bow was on display. Dualas were mainly fishermen and their boats played an important role  in their lives; races were one of the men’s main competitive sports (along with wrestling) and the dugout bows were sculpted.

(bottom) Bow of a dugout from the “Deido School of Art” (Cameroon)
Danhomé royal seat
Figurines from South Cameroon and Gabon
Colorful Téké-Tsayi pieces (Gabon-Congo)

The Museum is a little tricky to navigate with its labyrinthine style of exhibitis. What I would have liked to see as additions would be modern artists from these same regions.

For all those interested in traditional (I don’t especially care for the term “indigenous”–do we say indigenous art from France?) art from Africa, it is still really worth visiting this museum.
Address: 37 Quai Branly, 75007 Paris; subway: Alma-Marceau

 This post was originally published on the blog Away From Africa on Oct. 29, 2012

El Anatsui: 2013 Brooklyn Museum Retrospective

“Gli” (Wall), 2010, at the beginning of the exhibition area, Brooklyn Museum

What a life trajectory. El Anatsui’s work is now featured in a retrospective at one of the United States’ premier museums, the Brooklyn MuseumGravity and Grace: Monumental Works by El Anatsui, curated by Kevin Dumouchelle.
El Anatsui has been shown at New York City’s contemporary African art galleries since over 20 years, such as Skoto Gallery and the Contemporary African Art gallery. The first pieces I had seen, in the 1990s, and admired, were made of wood, and I still have a Newark Museum postcard I held on to since 2007. Several years ago, both Skoto Gallery and the Contemporary African Art Gallery staged a double exhibit of El Anatsui’s new metal work, which is the art that finally made him famous worldwide, at the age of sixty!

“Amewo” (People) – 1998, modified 2010

The art  was so wonderful to behold that we all wanted a piece, even though none of us mere mortals could afford it, even then. “Weaving” together liquor bottle caps, he created giant shimmering, glittering tapestries, which from afar, resembled Ghanaian Ashanti cloth.
Fast forward a few years and El Anatsui’s work is now shown at the Newark Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and now in this grand  exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum (and that’s just counting a few museums here in the Northeastern United States).
El Anatsui was born in 1944 in Ghana, studied at the College of Art of the University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana. He studied European-style art, and it was later that he turned towards a more “Africanist” style.

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He was a professor of sculpture at the University of Nigeria for 35 years, while simultaneously working on his art. He exhibited for many years in many countries and was certainly already a well-respected artist, but the fame he is now enjoying is certainly of another order.
In the Brooklyn Museum exhibition, there are a few pieces in yet another new style, albeit still in “recycled” metal. Should we call El Anatsui’s art “green”? I would answer affirmatively… El Anatsui thinks that materials can be humble, and yet end up as a beautiful piece of art.

Kevin Duchoumelle speaking of the art at a press preview
The latest in El Anatsui’s work
Detail
El Anatsui sculpture made of condensed milk can tops
Sculpture made of condensed milk can tops

El Anatsui ships his pieces folded up, and it is the curator’s choice how to display them, where the folds should be. He does not insist on determining how a sculpture should be shown; the curator uses her/his own judgment and sensibility.

Ink Splash
Ink Splash

For further information: 

Brooklyn Museum exhibition in the NY Times

El Anatsui at the High Line Park in Manhattan in 2013

Educator’s Guide to the Museum for African Art exhibition “When I Last Wrote to You about Africa”