22 jul 2011

'Vaudou' Exhibition

Vaudou Exhibition, ETHNIKKA blog for Traditional Knowledge and Culture
Exhibition: Vaudou (Vodun) 
5 April to 25 September 2011 
Opening times: daily except Monday, from 11 to 20h. Tuesday evenings until 22h. 
Place: Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain, 261 Boulevard Raspail, Paris (France
Entrance fee: 8,50 € 
About the exhibition:
A great connoisseur of African art, Jacques Kerchache traveled to Benin in the 1960s where he first discovered Vodun art, the source of Vodun itself. He met its priests, was initiated into its rituals and was struck by the astonishing forms invented by its sculptors.
Jacques made it his mission to elevate Vodun art, to situate it among the greatest of human creations. He was determined not to let humanity’s deepest secrets remain in the dark.
During his visits to the Gulf of Benin, Jacques built up an unprecedented collection—a secret passion that consumed him all his life. The Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain is now unveiling this collection in accordance with the wishes expressed by Jacques before he passed away ten years ago, and as a token of the strong friendship that developed over the years.
Enzo Mari produced the scenography with a masterful hand. Yuji Ono photographed the sculptures.

Vodun is not a coherent and unified whole. It is associated with a large number of societies from Dahomey, southwestern Zaire and western Nigeria, whose liturgies continue to thrive in the Caribbean (Brazil, Haiti, Jamaica) as a result of the massive slave trade that went on for over two centuries.
The practice of Vodun has always been confined to an intellectual elite. Its objects or fetishes can only act once they have been rendered sacred. They are the material signs of divine affirmation and their longevity depends on their use.
Vodun” resonates with a sense of magic and this magic must remain intact. It is not our intention to indulge in exotic clichés or to unveil any mysteries, but rather to consider, for the first time ever, the purely aesthetic aspect of this art.
Artists have played a key role in all cultures from prehistoric times to the present day. And, in particular, in societies without writing, artists are a support for the spoken word, the very identity of a people, respecting their prohibitions so as to better circumvent them, always finding new ways to enhance the expressiveness of their works without destroying that element of esotericism that gives them their beauty. Artists are the people who ask original questions with regard to an object, no matter what its use (contemplative or active), the people for whom it is not so much the subject that is important as the way in which it will be handled. In all times and all places, artists have always been the great magicians.
Malraux wrote: “The 21st century will be religious or it will not be.” This does not mean that it will be under religious domination, but that it will be endowed with spiritual power, and the act of creation is overwhelmingly invested with such power. Even though it may represent an ideology, art is nevertheless an opening, a demonstration par excellence of freedom. Global, universal, timeless, art is made available to all human beings, to all those who are able to understand it.
To speak about Vodun art is thus, above all, to reflect on the status, the identity of the artist.
Picasso never knew the art of Vodun and yet there are astonishing affinities between his artwork and the works of these committed artists, works that are provocative on an aesthetic as well as a magical level. The contemporary artists that have come into contact with such art have quite naturally been fascinated by the extraordinary questions they raise. Vodun art contains all of these things at once: a constant connection between the aesthetic and the sacred, the perfect creation of a sort of three-dimensional ideogram taken to its extreme, an art of subversion in which everything signifies, a process that is surprisingly modern and highly inventive, an experimentation in form, as well as a stab at humor on an aesthetic level.
Jacques Kerchache, undated
Excerpted from the catalog Vodun: African Voodoo,Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris, 2011

Born in 1942 in Rouen, France
Died in 2001 in Cancún, Mexico
A self-taught galerist and connoisseur known for his exacting eye and profound knowledge of the Primitive Arts, Jacques Kerchache was during his life one of the most passionate and vanguard figures of the French art world. Born in 1942 in Rouen, he had precocious beginnings, opening his first gallery in 1960. From 1959 to 1980 he travelled frequently to Africa, Asia, America and Oceania, venturing in regions few other dealers dared to explore in search of exceptional works of art. It was during his first trip to Benin that he became fascinated by Vodun sculpture. This passion led him to bring together what would become one of the most significant existing collections devoted to African Vodun.
Jacques Kerchache would frequently be called upon to serve as an advisor or curator, working on such groundbreaking exhibitions as the New York MoMA’sPrimitivism in Twentieth Century Art (1984), which explored the influence of Primitive art on the work of 20th century artists, or the Musée du Petit Palais "L’Art des sculpteurs Taïnos" (1994), which presented for the first time to a large public pre-Columbian art from the Caribbean islands. He is also one of the main authors of the seminal work, Art of Africa published in 1993 by Harry N. Abrams. Throughout his career, Jacques Kerchache strongly encouraged French museums to move beyond what was a primarily ethnographic approach to the Primitive Arts in order to consider them for their universal aesthetic value. In 1990 he launched a manifesto entitled “The masterpieces of the World are Born Free and Equal,” promoting with great conviction the entry of Primitive Arts into the collections of the Louvre. It was thus under his initiative that the Pavillon des Sessions—devoted to the arts of Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas—was created at the Louvre in 2000. He also promoted the creation of the Quai Branly Museum, which opened its doors following his death in 2006. His wife has since donated many works of their collection to the museum.
The interests of Jacques Kerchache were not limited to the arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas. His universalist approach to art and aesthetics also led him to support the work of contemporary artists as well, developing close friendships with Sam Szafran, Paul Rebeyrolle and Georg Baselitz. The same open-minded, avant-garde spirit also led Jacques Kerchache to work with the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain on many occasions, contributing as an advisor to the thematic exhibitions À visage découvert (1992) and être nature (1998) and as an author for the exhibition catalog of the contemporary Haitian artist Patrick Vilaire, Réflexion sur la mort (1997).
Jacques Kerchache received two of France’s highest decorations, the Chevalier de l’Ordre national du Mérite and the Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur.

© Text and image: Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain

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