Foto aus der Sammlung Uli Beier

(c) DEVA und Iwalewahaus, Universität Bayreuth; Centre for Black Culture and International Understanding (CBCIU), Osogbo, Nigeria

Presenting Africa, Presenting Oneself

The 'Phantasy' Africa of Art Patronage in the Times of Modernism
PhD Project by Katharina Greven

Images in a wider sense are visual material ranging from paintings to photographs and can include entire collections and archives. They are valuable historical, emotional and social documents and much more than a descriptive or additional illustration of society. Rather, they manifest visions, dreams, fantasy, ideas, political views and propaganda in the same way as literature. A careful analysis extracting the form and content of an image allows us to understand the author’s process of creation and (self-) presentation. The case presented here considers art patrons in times of Modernism.

My dissertation deals with images (including collections, private estates, publications and art) produced by art patrons who collected and promoted art in several African countries between 1950 and 1970. Most had an artistic background and came to Africa to find a place to live and to self-actualise. Living in an alien environment, they created a ‘home’ for themselves, which combined several aspects of their former and present life (own background, new influences, new materials, etc.). They promoted a very specific view of themselves as well as a very specific view of Africa and its arts. They became collectors and preservers of traditional (factually or putatively endangered) cultures, but also promoted modern artists. These artists dealt with global influences and, due to changes in the society, material and aesthetic views in a visual way. By combining the influences they were exposed to (traditional African art, modern art, European background, self-manifestation, view of Africa, etc.), they created a sort of a syncretism, a mix or even a new perspective on themselves and Africa.

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Foto aus der Sammlung Uli Beier

(c) DEVA und Iwalewahaus, Universität Bayreuth; Centre for Black Culture and International Understanding (CBCIU), Osogbo, Nigeria

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