|Born||1961 (age 56–57)|
Meschac Gaba (born 1961) is a Beninese conceptual artist based in Rotterdam and Cotonou. His installations of everyday objects whimsically juxtapose African and Western cultural identities and commerce. He is best known for The Museum of Contemporary African Art 1997–2002, an autobiographical 12-room installation acquired and displayed by the Tate Modern in 2013. He has also exhibited at the Studio Museum in Harlem and at the 2003 Venice Biennale.
Early life and career
Meschac Gaba was born in Cotonou, Benin, in 1961. He had drifted from his training as a painter until a bag of decommissioned money cut into confetti led him to make paintings with the material. Gaba became known for his installations of everyday objects that whimsically juxtapose African and Western cultural identities and commerce.
He held a residency at the Amsterdam Rijksakademie in 1996 for two years. In the absence of opportunities to display his work in the city, he set out over the next five years to make his own museum. This piece became his seminal The Museum of Contemporary African Art 1997–2002, which consists of 12 rooms (some based on museum function and others personal) filled with objects made by Gaba. Throughout the exhibition ran a vein of confessional narrative about the artist's art travails between Africa and Europe. The wedding room, which he made while in love, holds mementos as museum artifacts from Gaba's wedding to the Dutch curator Alexandra van Dongen in 2000 at the Amsterdam Stedelijk Museum. The Library room holds art books and tells of Gaba's childhood. The games room showed sliding puzzle tables that form African national flags. It had its own gift shop and café. The exhibited Museum had couches for reading, a piano for playing, and featured objects reflecting Africa's polycultural character, including Ghanaian money featuring the face of Picasso, a Swiss bank mimicking an African street market, and gilded ceramic chicken legs.
The Museum exhibited widely. The work was first displayed in part in 2002 at Documenta 11. Gaba received a Rotterdam space in which he could live and store the work. When his son requested a more normal house, Gaba sold and gifted most of the work to the Tate Modern, save for his Library, which Gaba returned to his hometown. Around 2013, Gaba lived half the year in his hometown of Cotonou and the other half in Rotterdam with his wife and son. The Tate Modern displayed the work as a whole in 2013 as part of the Tate's two-year program of African-focused exhibitions. The wedding room enchanted the British art critic Jonathan Jones, who described the Museum as autobiographical, novelistic, protest showing "the strength of modern African art". For instance, the Art and Religion room showed "classic" African ceremonial sculpture alongside kitschy Buddhist and Christian objects, as if to group the types together as poor representations of their respective cultures. Gaba saw the work as correcting lacks of art education in Africa and African art representation outside the continent.
In-between finishing the Museum and its Tate exhibition, Gaba presented at the 2003 Venice Biennale and held his first solo show in the United States at the Studio Museum in Harlem, "Tresses", a series of architectural models of New York City and Benin landmarks made from artificial braided hair extensions. The accessory, popularized by African-American pop stars based on West African culture, was repatriated to Africa. Gaba worked with a Beninese hair braider to make the sculptures from his photographs. The New York Times wrote that the works were "delightful" and recognizable without becoming caricatures.
Gaba held his first solo gallery show, "Exchange Market", in New York in 2014. On the ground floor, 10 sculptures of unvarnished wood tables each with a wire umbrella stand, from which African banknotes hung. Each table was associated with a type of commodity: cotton, cocoa, diamonds. Along the walls hung bank-shaped works made of wood, plexiglass, and decommissioned money. Upstairs, reminiscent of the games room of Gaba's museum, were four foosball tables and small souvenir sculptures such as hand-painted cricket bats and a miniature billiards table.
- "Exchange Market", Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York City, 2014
- "Museum of Contemporary African Art", Tate Modern, 2013
- "Tresses", Studio Museum in Harlem, 2005
- Wright, Karen (June 28, 2013). "In The Studio: Meschac Gaba, artist". The Independent. Archived from the original on March 26, 2018. Retrieved March 25, 2018.
- Ossei-Mensah, Larry (October 12, 2014). "The Buzz Around Contemporary African Art: 10 Trending Artists at 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair". Artsy. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved March 25, 2018.
- Brown, Mark (July 1, 2013). "Tate Modern opens doors to African visionaries Salahi and Gaba". The Guardian. Archived from the original on April 13, 2017. Retrieved March 25, 2018.
- Walleston, Aimee (September 1, 2014). "Meschac Gaba". Art in America. Archived from the original on September 28, 2017. Retrieved March 25, 2018.
- Jones, Jonathan (July 1, 2013). "Meschac Gaba's anti-museum shows the strength of modern African art". The Guardian. Archived from the original on November 20, 2017. Retrieved March 25, 2018.
- Sherwin, Skye (June 28, 2013). "Rachel Goodyear, Andy Parker, Meschac Gaba: the week's art shows - in pictures". The Guardian. Archived from the original on May 14, 2016. Retrieved March 25, 2018.
- Higgins, Charlotte (November 1, 2012). "Tate opens the door to Africa". The Guardian. Archived from the original on February 11, 2017. Retrieved March 25, 2018.
- Cotter, Holland (March 4, 2005). "Art in Review; Meschac Gaba". The New York Times. p. E37. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on March 26, 2018.
- Ambler, Charlie (August 7, 2013). "D.I.Y. Museum". Modern Painters. 25 (7): 25. ISSN 0953-6698 – via EBSCOhost.
- Auer, James (September 24, 2001). "Artists' works converge at inova for a healing world view: [Final Edition]". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; Milwaukee, Wis. Milwaukee, Wis., United States, Milwaukee, Wis. p. 06B. ISSN 1082-8850 – via ProQuest.
- Bari, Shahidha (July 18, 2013). "Rooms of magic and mischief". Times Higher Education (2110): 40. ISSN 0049-3929 – via EBSCOhost.
- Burrows, David (September 2000). "10th East International". Art Monthly (239): 32–34. ISSN 0142-6702 – via ProQuest.
- Casavecchia, Barbara (November–December 2000). "Taipei Biennial". Flash Art. 33 (215): 103. ISSN 0394-1493 – via ProQuest.
- Cotter, Holland (March 7, 2013). "A Light Hand at the Independent Art Fair". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331.
- Folkersma, Nina (2000). "Meschac Gaba's museum on the moon". M'Ars (Slovenia). 12 (3–4): 40–41. ISSN 0353-541X – via ProQuest.
- Folkersma, Nina (1998). "Meschac Gaba's Museum on the Moon". Nka : Journal of Contemporary African Art; Ithaca (9): 16–19. ISSN 1075-7163 – via ProQuest.
- Halkes, Petra (2001). "Meschac Gaba". Parachute (Canada) (104): 7. ISSN 0318-7020 – via ProQuest.
- Hamilton, Adrian (July 16, 2013). "Ibrahim el-Salahi: Out of Africa". The Independent. Retrieved March 25, 2018.
- Heartney, Eleanor (Feb 2001). "Circuit cities". Art in America; New York. 89 (2). pp. 48–55. ISSN 0004-3214 – via ProQuest.
- Kulish, Nicholas (January 9, 2014). "Young Artists, Lifted by Africa's Opening and the Web". New York Times. p. A4. ISSN 0362-4331 – via EBSCOhost.
- Luke, Ben (July 2, 2013). "Arresting journey to Africa". Evening Standard. p. 32. ISSN 1472-5223 – via EBSCOhost.
- "Making space". Economist. 407 (8842): 77. June 29, 2013. ISSN 0013-0613 – via EBSCOhost.
- "Meschac Gaba". Art in America. 102 (8): 148. September 2014. ISSN 0004-3214 – via EBSCOhost.
- "Meschac Gabas `Museum Shop' in der Ausstellung `South Meets West' [Meschac Gaba's `Museum Shop' in the exhibition `South Meets West']". Berner Kunstmitteilungen (325): 18–19. June–August 2000. ISSN 1010-559X – via ProQuest.
- Mew, Sophie (September 2014). "Meschac Gaba". African Arts. 47 (3): 85. ISSN 0001-9933 – via EBSCOhost.
- Pawson, Lara (March 14, 2013). "Here & There". Frieze. Retrieved March 26, 2018.
- Robertson, Erin C.J. (June 24, 2016). "Beninese Artist Meschac Gaba Transforms Holland's Architecture Into Towering Colorful Wigs". OkayAfrica. Retrieved March 25, 2018.
- Schwendener, Martha (July 21, 2017). "Meschac Gaba". New York Times. p. C14. ISSN 0362-4331 – via EBSCOhost.
- Weston, Neville (March 2014). "IBRAHIM EL-SALAHI: A Visionary Modernist". Craft Arts International (90): 102. ISSN 1038-846X – via EBSCOhost.