Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Afrikan Rejects Movement

Image: Afrikan Rejects | ID Cards by MONA

Recently, I went to the Cezanne Exhibition in London and was reminded on how the Modern Art Movement was created. At the time all important artists had to be accepted by "Le Salon" in Paris but Cezanne and his friends, Monet, Van Gogh, Renoir et al were all rejected from "Le Salon". The artists were so angry about this they created a Movement called "Le Salon Rejects". With this in mind I have attempted to start a Movement called the "Afrikan Rejects". It was founded in Camden Market last Saturday by the artist, Mona and myself. I am presently in conversation with African artists worthy of rejection. I have written an article about this and would like to know what your thoughts are on this rather controversial matter.

These are truly exciting times to be an African artist.

Here is the article.

Afrikan Rejects

We live in a post 9/11 World and today we all exist within these unhealthy insane environments across the globe, which are full to the brim with paranoia. The established societies throughout the world are so nervous and frightened of rebellion that even a whiff is quashed before it has a chance to be fully realised. London is a city I love and I have found it to be a city full of infinite possibilities and it has become clear that for years now the establishment has been spoon-feeding us mediocre art in order to keep the public from realizing the true function of great art. Great art pushes the boundaries of what we consider art to be. It is organic and almost alive. Once we are given the opportunity to witness great art and the knowledge to understand it, things become heightened, our brains start to become a little sharper and our senses become more alive. Through great art we are able to see society clearly and begin to understand that those leading the world and those making choices on our behalf, have betrayed us and are merely profiteering puppeteers cloaked as powerful corporate banks and individuals; they have been masking us from the truth about the importance of art and how art, if presented and clearly understood, can move Nations. This artistic movement the "Afrikan Rejects" is going to set your imaginations to overload. We will then all begin to understand the reality of all things around us. Art is a freedom that we should cherish beyond all things. Great art is love and enlightenment so it should come as no surprise that the owners of art are the rich and the powerful. It is within their grasp to then drip-feed the society at will, mixing mediocrity with genius. Confusing the society with wordy intelligent critiques with perplexing and elitist terminology, often devoid of passion and writing in riddles.

The change in British Society can almost be dated, it was on the day the Sensation Exhibition was held in the Royal Academy and since then the world has been busy looking at work that is really painting by numbers. This British Art phenomenon has completely destroyed the purpose of art. It has turned artists into businessmen and the young in Britain into greedy opportunists. The artists within the Afrikan Rejects Movement take their craft so seriously, to ignore them, at this time in our history, would be very foolish. What I have observed over the past decade is that the talent from Africa is overwhelming and the different artistic techniques that are being presented are outstanding and tremendously exciting.

The origins of this Movement came about due to the impossible situations that the contemporary African artists have to endure. The reality of contemporary African art is that the established auction houses in New York, London and Paris have rejected so many exceptional artists. The artists have been rejected because they are not recognised in the western world. Presently, there are no private galleries exclusively dealing with contemporary African Art as those in the art world, understandably refuse to take such a high risk. This means that there is no place for Africans from Africa on the primary art market. They have nowhere to show their work and this excludes the artists from selling their work through the secondary market of a recognised auction house, which enables artists to become internationally registered. In many cases important African artists are not even registered as artists and the world is denied the knowledge of their work. They are never given an opportunity to exhibit in the west and the galleries from their respective countries are clearly off the international artistic map. The work is so important yet virtually impossible to sell at a reputable price, especially considering the time it takes to develop their ideas. The dealers and collectors are taking full advantage of this and are buying a Nations contemporary culture for a pittance. This is disgraceful and I think we all agree that the artists should be honoured and valued both internationally and by their Independent Nations. What is happening today is that there is a mass exodus of artists from the continent who are desperately trying to find recognition in the West but more importantly we should asked the question, why should the independent nations of Africa be so dependent on the acceptance of the Western world? This seems to fly in the face of what true independence means and begs the question, who is really controlling the contemporary African society? Is it the colonial countries of the West or Africa itself? It is vital that African Nations begin to shape their contemporary society and establish galleries and auction houses. This Movement has come about in order to kick start this cultural development.

The Afrikan Rejects Movement intelligently plays on the paranoia of the establishment and was started on 27th July 2008 in Camden Market by the artist, Mona and myself. The art that I have so passionately followed for 10 years has seen little if no movement in regards to the artistic value both financially and culturally its 50-60 year lifespan of post independent Africa but the work is some of the most important ever created. In the majority of the Continent of Africa each Nation has only a limited number of working artists. It is only a matter of time until these artists become the known and established within contemporary Africa. The question should be; how long can an artist be rejected in our paranoid society, especially in light of the fact that there are so few?

The Movement gives the world the gift of acceptable rejection in order to push, encourage and stretch the boundaries of art. It acts as an appreciation society for those misunderstood and ignored. It is intentionally designed to boost the morale of artists throughout a Continent. The Movement works on parallel lines with what art should truly be all about. Art is all about creativity, spontaneity and the ability to stretch the imagination to new and dizzy heights.

For those interested in this thought process of the Afrikan Rejects Movement please contact me through this blog or by email at

Anselm Keifer | German Artist de Plasticien

The work of Anselm Keifer for the first time quite clearly complements the art from West African. Creating impressively huge pieces of artwork in bright white established gallery spaces. In fact, in established galleries who are respectively and ironically rejecting the creativity of the West African. The ideas you will see over the coming years will have a direct link with the work that has been produced by West African artists and artists throughout Africa. What is highly amusing is that the origins of these techniques, ideas and creativity will thankfully never be accepted by the established art world. West African artists, especially from Togo and Benin are healing and developing the world through their celebration of origin and their greater understanding of self.

Let us give the Afrikan Rejects their credit. Their work needs to be mentioned at this time so we can make reference to this bizarre comment. Keifer's work has a direct correlation with the work being produced by impressive artists such as Charly D'Almeida and Anagossi Gratien, "Grek", from the Republic of Benin and of Laka from Togo, all of whom talk about the importance of mysticism to the peoples of West Africa. It is fascinating to see that West African talent is once again cleverly slipping through the established art world's net and falling into the hands of this great German Artist de Plasticien, Anselm Keifer.

In Keifer's work Palmsonntag in 2006 at the White Cube he pays great homage to the young West African artists, especially Anagossi Gratien, Grek whose work is similar to Alberto Burni and Antoni Tapies of the Art Informel Movement of the 1950`s but I believe this is more by accident rather than design. I use the term Art Informel from the French informe, meaning unformed or formless to refer to the antigeometric, antinaturalistic, and nonfigurative formal preoccupations, which is so obvious in Grek`s work, stressing his pursuit for spontaneity, looseness of form, and the irrational.

This young artist is pushing forward inventive new ideas of seeing and using whatever materials are closest at hand. His work is extensively about the plight of the impoverished and his inventive techniques of leaving painted canvas in the sun for weeks on end is extremely effective. The end product is a painting that looks like it`s about to fall to pieces, which is purposefully symbolic in the way in which he chooses to reflect his own condition.

Grek`s work leans towards the gestural and expressive, with repetitive anticompositional formats related to Abstract Expressionism and he is regarded as a major figure within the African Reject Movement of today.

The same can be said of the artist Charly D’Almeida who regards life as being merely a series of rituals, as is art. Nobody makes this clearer than Charly D'Almeida, who unashamably tells his audience that he uses Voodoo in his work and constantly reminds them where he is from. In his paintings he uses the soil found in Abomey or Ouidah and mixes it up to use as paint. A lot of his canvas' have a wonderful orangie-brown quality to them that can only been found in African soil. His canvases are specifically made in Cotonou and carefully woven. Cola-nuts are crushed and used as pigments throughout his work, which is no surprise as cola-nuts have been traditionally used as a dye but more often eaten at rituals and presented as offering to important guests.

In his sculptural work Charly is a city-comber finding interesting objects to redesign; "Recycled art", if you must, but all the items are carefully chosen and taken from the area of great importance from old to new Africa; from places like Abomey, Cotonou, Port Novo and the original Kingdom of Benin. It is not by accident more by design that Charly is once again echoing the importance of the power of his country and of West Africa. By searching and recycling from his African Kingdom he is creating a new vision.

Charly D’Almeida is true to himself and proud of where he is from. When they come to write the history books on contemporary Africa I trust that people like Charly are far from forgotten and I am delighted that an artist as important as Anselm Keifer would make such clear reference to these young talented West African artists. Anselm Keifer and his work deserves to all our support. His work is inventive, exploratory and highly inventive. He has given the world a chance to explore the talent of contemporary Africa like no other contemporary artist. Impatiently I look forward to his next works with great anticipation.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Afrikan Rejects Exhibition

Everything begins with Alexander Skunder Boghassian 1937-2003. Undeniably one of the best artists in the world. Skunder has been 5 years dead but little has changed since his passing. He lived life to the full and died drunk and penniless. His constant rejection should be his legacy.

In 1965, Boghassian became the first contemporary African artist to have work purchased by the Museum of Modern Art in New York; his paintings are also in the collections of the National Musuem of Africa Art in Washington DC and the Musee d'Art Moderne in Paris.

Skunder's work pushed the boundaries of art and after seeing a Bonham's catalogue, Exploration, Travel and Topographical Pictures held on Wednesday 21st May 2008 and seeing "The Eye in the Mirror" by this wonderful artist with a guide price of £1,500-£2000 it was then it hit me. We need to create an Artistic Movement. One that denotes the reality of what is happening. The African artists are really being rejected. Rejected by their own country; rejected by International Mainstream Galleries, rejected by established Auction Houses. Their lack of success on the International stage is beyond doubt. What is needed is a dramatic sea-change. A celebration of rejection. Artists can not work for over 20 years and still be ignored. It is time for action. I would like to launch an artistic movement known as the AfriKan Rejects. Over the weekend I was in Camden Market talking with the artist, Mona and she has agreed to be the first Afrikan Reject Artist and so the Movement has started.

Art is a freedom and we should value this freedom beyond all things. I trust all those artists from Africa who are interested in this philosophical movement. Please contact me to be rejected.

The first Exhibition of the work will be held in my house.

Afrikan Rejects | Please Do Not Come!

Dates to be confirmed.

Friday, 11 July 2008

Vogue Italia | July Issue
Black is finally in fashion at Vogue
By Ian Johnston and Photini Philippidou
Sunday, 27 April 2008

It's an open secret in the fashion industry: black models rarely get jobs on catwalks, in magazines and on billboards. According to executives, they do not inspire women to spend money.

Apart from Naomi Campbell in one Louis Vuitton advertisement this season, it would be difficult to find a single black model in a prominent position in a magazine. Carole White of the Premier Model Agency says she has received casting briefs requesting "no ethnics" and adds: "According to magazines, black models don't sell."

The leading British photographer Nick Knight says: "The fashion industry and the advertising industry are steeped in racism. You just have to look around at the number of black girls you see in ads – virtually nil. Among the main fashion brands, they are completely under-represented. It's shocking and atrocious."

Mr Knight blames business people at the top of the industry. A common attitude among them, he says, is that black models are "not aspirational" or "don't sell in Asia". He goes on: "I have tried to redress the balance. It is enormously important to use black models and models of different ethnic backgrounds."

Now a counterattack to the racism of the fashion industry is coming from an unlikely source: Vogue Italia. The July issue of the fearsomely cutting-edge quarterly will feature black models almost exclusively, shot by the photographer Steven Meisel.

Franca Sozzani, editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia, told The Independent on Sunday: "We are using a lot of black models, like Iman, not only the models of today – a lot of different girls." Asked why she had decided to do this, she said: "Because nobody is using black girls. I see so many beautiful girls and they were complaining that they are not used enough."

Ms Sozzani admitted the issue could yet prove to be unpopular among some in Italy, where the xenophobic Northern League is part of the new coalition led by Silvio Berlusconi: "Maybe in our country it is not the best idea. But I don't care. I think it is not my problem if they don't like it – it's their problem."

Sarah Doukas, managing director of model agency Storm, says: "There has been frustration over the years from a lot of ethnic models, stylists and editors who have felt that they were not working as much as some of their Caucasian counterparts."

But she added: "There has been a shift recently: supportive media coverage has had an impact on the fashion industry."

Nick Knight welcomes the prospect of Vogue Italia's all-black edition but adds a note of caution: "I hope all the advertising goes in that issue."


If interested in seeing the issue or better still, buying a copy go to this website:

Monday, 7 July 2008

Public Art

The Fire Fountain by Jean-Paul Riopelle

Today I am thinking about the importance of Public Art and what it means to the general public.

Here is what Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia has to say on the subject.

The term public art properly refers to works of art in any media that has been planned and executed with the specific intention of being sited or staged in the public domain, usually outside and accessible to all. The term is especially significant within the art world, amongst curators, commissioning bodies and practitioners of public art, to whom it signifies a particular working practice, often with implications of site specificity, community involvement and collaboration. The term is sometimes also applied to include any art which is exhibited in a public space including publicly accessible buildings.

The Scope of Public Art

Monuments, memorials and civic statuary are perhaps the oldest and most obvious form of officially sanctioned public art, although it could be said that architectural detail and even architecture itself is more widespread and fulfills the definition of public art. Increasingly most aspects of the built environment are seen as legitimate candidates for consideration as, or location for, public art, including, street furniture, lighting and graffiti. Public art is not confined to physical objects; dance, procession, street theatre even poetry have proponents that specialize in public art.

Sculpture intended as public art is often constructed of durable, easily cared-for material, to avoid the worst effects of the elements and vandalism; however, many works are intended to have only a temporary existence and are made of more ephemeral materials. Permanent works are sometimes integrated with architecture and landscaping in the creation or renovation of buildings and sites, an especially important example being the programme developed in the new city of Milton Keynes, England.

Some artists working in this discipline use the freedom afforded by an outdoor site to create very large works that would be unfeasible in a gallery, for instance Richard Long's 3 week walk, entitled "The Path Is the Place in the Line". Amongst the works of the last 30 years that have met greatest critical and popular acclaim are pieces by Christo, Robert Smithson, Andy Goldsworthy, and Anthony Gormley where the artwork reacts to or incorporates its environment.

Artists making Public art range from the greatest masters such as Michelangelo, Pablo Picasso, and Joan Miró, to those who specialize in public art such as Claes Oldenburg and Pierre Granche, to anonymous artists who make surreptitious interventions.

Interactive Public Art

Some forms of public art are designed to encourage audience participation in a hands-on way. Examples include public art installed at hands-on science museums such as the main architectural centerpiece out in front of the Ontario Science Centre. This permanently installed artwork is a fountain that is also a musical instrument (hydraulophone) that members of the public can play at any time of the day or night. Members of the public interact with the work by blocking water jets to force water through various sound-producing mechanisms inside the sculpture.

Percent of Art

Public art is usually installed with the authorization and collaboration of the government or company that owns or administers the space. Some governments actively encourage the creation of public art, for example, budgeting for artworks in new buildings by implementing a Percent for Art policy. 1% of the construction cost for art is a standard, but the amount varies widely from place to place. Administration and maintenance costs are sometimes withdrawn before the money is distributed for art (City of Los Angeles for example). Many locales have "general funds" that fund temporary programs and performances of a cultural nature rather than insisting on project-related commissions. The majority of European countries, Australia and many cities and states in the USA, have percent for art programs. This requirement is implemented in a variety of ways. The government of Quebec requires that the budget for all new publicly funded buildings set aside 1% for artwork. New York City has a law that requires that no less than 1% of the first twenty million dollars, plus no less than one half of 1% of the amount exceeding twenty million dollars be allocated for art work in any public building that is owned by the city. The maximum allocation for any commission in New York is $400,000.[1] In contrast, the city of Toronto requires that 1% all of construction costs be set aside for public art, with no set upper limit (although in some circumstances, the municipality and the developer might negotiate a maximum amount). In Britain percent for art is discretionary for local authorities, who implement it under the broader terms of a section 106 agreement otherwise known as 'planning gain', in practice it is negotiable, and seldom ever reaches a full 1%, where it is implemented at all. A percent for art scheme exists in Ireland and is widely implemented by many local authorities. Arts Queensland, Australia supports a new policy (2008) for 'art + place' with a budget provided by state government and a curatorial advisory committee. It replaces the previous 'art built-in' 2005 - 2007.

Public Art and Politics

Public art has often been used for political ends. The most extreme and widely discussed manifestations of this remain the use of art as propaganda within totalitarian regimes coupled with simultaneous suppression of dissent. The approach to art seen in Stalin's Soviet Union and Mao's Cultural Revolution in China stand as representative.

In more open societies artists often find public art useful in promoting their ideas or establishing a censorship-free means of contact with viewers. The art may be intentionally ephemeral, as in the case of temporary installations and performance pieces. Such art has a spontaneous quality. It is characteristically displayed in urban environments without the consent of authorities. In time, though, some art of this kind achieves official recognition. Examples include situations in which the line between graffiti and "guerrilla" public art is blurred, such as the art of John Fekner placed on billboards, the early works of Keith Haring (executed without permission in advertising poster holders in the New York City Subway) and the current work of Banksy. The Belfast and Los Angeles murals were responses to periods of conflict. The art provided an effective means of communication both within and beyond a distressed group within the larger society. In the long run the work proved useful in establishing dialogue and helping to bridge the social rifts that fueled the original conflicts.


Public art sometimes proves controversial. A number of factors contribute to this: the desire of the artist to provoke; the diverse nature of the viewing public, with widely varying degrees of familiarity with art and its syntax; issues of appropriates uses of public funds, spaces, and resources; issues of public safety and civic oversight.

Richard Serra's minimalist piece Tilted Arc was removed from a New York City plaza in 1989 after office workers complained their work routine was disrupted by the piece. A public court hearing ruled against continued display of the work.

Victor Pasmore's Apollo Pavilion in the English New Town of Peterlee has been a focus for local politicians and other groups complaining about the governance of the town and allocation of resources. In this case artists and cultural leaders from the region mounted a campaign to rehabilitate the reputation of the work with the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art commissioning artists Jane and Louise Wilson to make a video installation about the piece in 2003.

House, a large 1993–94 work by Rachel Whiteread in East London, was destroyed by the local council after a few months. In this case the artist and her agent had only secured temporary permission for the work.

Maurice Agis' Dreamscape V, a huge inflatable maze erected in Chester-le-Street, County Durham, killed two women and seriously injured a three-year-old girl when a strong wind broke its moorings and carried it 30ft into the air, with thirty people trapped inside.[2]

16 Tons, Seth Wulsin's vast 2006 work includes the demolition of the raw material it works with, namely a former skyscraper jail, Caseros Prison, located in the middle of Buenos Aires. The prison is guarded by the Argentine military 24 hours a day, so that, in order to gain authorization to carry out the project, Wulsin had to engage a huge network of local, city and national government agencies, as well as groups of former prisoners of the jail, former political prisoners, human rights groups, and the military. [1]

In any given controversy, complexities are involved. Though press reports often present community debates as contests between two rival camps, a variety of views exist among both art specialists and lay public. Neither subset of the population is a monolithic group. Art is challenged and defended in a variety of ways by a number of individuals.

Recent developments in public art now demonstrate an appeal to a friendlier notion of the public in the form of "community" art. Artists accept the many contexts brought to public art by its diverse audience, along with their own standing as members of the communities they address. They design pieces that generally curb avant-garde tendencies in favour of work that celebrates shared experiences. This approach validates the concerns of most public arts administrators and granting agencies. The approach encourages community involvement and critique of art works in the planning stages. It can head off controversies before large expenditures of public resources are involved.

This approach tends to alienate those who wish to see art take a more confrontational approach to social issues. Work that emphasizes common experiences within a community, they charge, plays down unpleasant conditions that persist within that community. Art groups like the Viennese Wochen Klausur (Weeks of Enclosure) aim to offer an alternative by working with expert agencies and using contemporary art idioms to explore possible solutions to pressing social problems.

Sustainability of Public Art

Public art faces a design challenge by its very nature: how best to activate the images in its surroundings. The concept of “sustainability” arises in response to the perceived environmental deficiencies of a city. Sustainable development, promoted by the United Nations since the 1980s, includes economical, social, and ecological aspects. A sustainable public art work would include plans for urban regeneration and disassembly. Sustainability has been widely adopted in many environmental planning and engineering projects. Sustainable art is a challenge to respond the needs of an opening space in public.


* "One Place After Another", Miwon Kwon. MIT Press, 2003.
* Public Art by the Book, edited by Barbara Goldstein. 2005.
* "Dialogues in Public Art", edited by Tom Finkelpearl. MIT Press, 2000.
* "The Interventionists: Users' Manual for the Creative Disruption of Everyday Life", edited by Nato Thompson and Gregory Sholette. MASS MoCA, 2004.
* "Conversation Pieces: Community + Communication in Modern Art", Grant Kester. University of California Press, 2004.
* Mapping the Terrain: New Genre Public Art, edited by Suzanne Lacy. Bay Press, 1995.
* "Evictions: Art and Spatial Politics", Rosalyn Deutsche. MIT Press, 1998.
* "In/Different Spaces: Place and Memory in Visual Culture", Victor Burgin. University of California Press, 1996.
* Art, Space and the City: Public Art and Urban Futures, Malcolm Miles. 1997.
* Spirit Poles and Flying Pigs: Public Art and Cultural Democracy in American Communities, Erika Lee Doss. 1995
* Critical Issues in Public Art: Content, Context, and Controversy, Harriet Senie and Sally Webster. 1993.
* Public Art Review, Forecast Public Art. Bi-Annual publication
* On the Museum's Ruins, Douglas Crimp. MIT Press, 1993.
* Art For Public Places: Critical Essays, by Malcolm Miles et al. 1989.
* "Marching Plague: Germ Warfare and Global Public Health", Critical Art Ensemble. Autonomedia, 2006.
* The Lansing Area Arts Attitude Survey, by Suzanne Love and Kim Dammers. Michigan State University Center for Urban Affairs, 1978?
* Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan: A Historical Guide, by Dianne Durante. New York University Press, 2007

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Sum-Phusis by George Hughes and Friends

George Hughes called this afternoon and we spoke about his new video on Youtube.

Originally from Ghana, George now lives and works in the USA. He is probably one of the most exciting artists in the world and certainly one of most original.

Take a look at his video it fuses dance, music and painting together with some remote controlled vehicles thrown in for good measure.....