African Innovations Now Open!

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.

Red Escape II

Viyé Diba (Senegalese, born 1954). Red Escape II, 1999. Cotton strip cloth, paint, sand, wood, metal , 67 x 55 in. (170.2 x 139.7 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Elliot Picket, by exchange and Alfred T. White Fund, 2011.30. © artist or artist's estate. Photo by Bonnie Morrison.

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.