After many months of object review, checklist creation, cross-departmental consultation, budgeting, conservation, design, research, writing, photography, editing, construction, painting, installation, and lighting, I am pleased to report that African Innovations is now open to the public. Our ace Technology team has put together the following short video introduction, with footage of the installation in progress.
To conclude our series, I would like to share one final work. Red Escape II, by Viyé Diba, a Senegalese artist who lives and works in Dakar, is a brand-new acquisition, making its debut in African Innovations. The work was purchased as a joint acquisition by Eugenie and me, on behalf of both the African and Contemporary collections. Thus, it may also find its way into a Contemporary collection rotation at some point in the future.
The painting itself is composed entirely of materials Diba found in Dakar, making the accumulated hands that previously touched these materials part of the work’s story. The piece of painted yellow wood, projecting between the seams of this woven canvas, and the abstract forms that suggest fleeing figures at the top, all evoke the possibility of liberation—from the plane of the canvas, from the strictures of either painting or sculpture or, perhaps, from the history of Dakar itself, a former minor way station in the odious historical trade in human captives.
While currently the only significant abstract contemporary work in the African collection, in its materials and surfaces Red Escape II evokes the centuries of more figurative creative expression that came before it. With its themes of community and freedom, it offers a fitting coda to African Innovations.
Kevin D. Dumouchelle joined the Brooklyn Museum in 2007. He was promoted to Associate Curator for the Arts of Africa and the Pacific Islands in 2012, having served as Assistant Curator since 2008. In 2011 he conceived and curated African Innovations, the Museum’s first chronological and contextual installation of its African collection. He has also curated a number of exhibitions, and contributed to the writing and editing of a major catalogue of works in the African collection, African Art: A Century at the Brooklyn Museum, published by the Brooklyn Museum in association with DelMonico Books • Prestel in fall 2009. Dumouchelle has published on a range of topics, from architecture and canonical African sculpture to contemporary photography, and he has received numerous fellowships and awards. Dumouchelle earned an M.A. and M.Phil. in Art History and Archaeology from Columbia University, where he taught art history and is completing his Ph.D. He has pursued research in Morocco, Mali, and Ghana, and is the recipient of a first-class Master’s degree in history from Oxford University and a B.S. in Foreign Service from Georgetown University.