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Je suis Art Paris: a voyage through Africa in 139 galleries

Photos of ArtParis Art Fair 2017 (c) Carmen Frigerio

From the 30th of March until the 2nd of April, the Grand Palais in Paris hosted the yearly fair “ArtParis Art Fair 2017” and Global:artfair had the honor to

participate in it.

Since the after‐war years until today the fair works in order to promote both European and international artists from all over the world. In the past two years, the fair focused in fact on Russia (2015) and on South South Korea (2016). This year the fair’s organizers chose Africa and its artistic production as the honor guest of this year: contemporary art from Africa has been the main focus of the fair, with more than twenty galleries from Africa and other galleries from Europe who decided to exhibit the creativity and variety of African contemporary artists.

Video, Opening by ArtParis Art Fair.

To do this, Guillaume Piens ‐the Commissioner General if Art Paris‐ decided to collaborate with Marie‐Ann Yemsi ‐mainly known for her exhibition “Odysseus Africaines” in Brass (Bruxelles), in 2015.

As Marie‐Ann Yemsi said in the press preview, the two organizers decided to take a Kantian position: “from where I am, I observe the world”. This is what the galleries in London, Paris or Brussels (and other cities in Europe) did, in order to have a nearer look to the African continent and its artists.

The two organizers also had an innovative idea, concerning the exhibiting space and space planning: they decided (in fact) not to put all together the galleries which have to do with Africa, in a separated or exclusive space, but to distribute all the galleries freely and mixed on the fair’s platform. In this way a “ghetto effect” was avoided (as Yemsi explained) and a sort of heterogeneous ecosystem could be created, where galleries from different parts of the world interacted together.

Kim Simonsson [+], Moss People, 2016. Photo Courtesy of ArtParis Art Fair

Another innovation was the presence of a symposium, a video program and some special projects whose goal was that of leading the viewer through the exploration of the African continent and to offer new perspectives on the creative energy and fertility of this geographical area.

Another new idea of this year was the introduction of a special area, called “promises”, dedicated to promote 12 galleries, which exist since less than six years and are particularly promising. For this area they selected many different galleries and all from a different city. The galleries who belonged to the category “promises” got part of the costs covered by the fair, in order to rent a space.

To give you a little feedback from the fair, Global:artfair decided to relate a “top three” of the galleries that we could see at Art Paris 2017


This gallery started to support artists from Arabic countries already at the end of the 80's; for Art Paris 2017 LEMAND decided to present a group of works made by artists who work between north Africa and Paris. It is the case of the Franco‐Moroccan artist Najia Mehadji, whose painting “Blue Wave” (2016) was exhibited in the gallery space. Here, a thick blue line skims through the surface of the canvas; sea landscape or interior breath? Sea waves or original art motif ‐which goes back to Y. Klein‐? Anyhow this broad‐ranging brush stroke leaves fallings drops, which remain bated, creating a link with a cosmogonist vision.

“Blue Wave”, Najia Mehadji, 2016. Photo Courtesy of ArtParis Art Fair


Wahib Chelata is the artist exhibited by this gallery, and its works seem to perfectly adapt to the theme of the fair. The contemporary photographer Chelata traveled through Senegal and Mali in order to create his series “Renaissance”, made of photo portraits. In “l’incredulité de Saint Thomas” an injured man can be recognized on the left and ‐in front of him‐ we see three other men, who look at him in an inquiring way, and one of them touches his wounds. The photo seems to be inspired by a Caravaggio painting, since the same light effects are chosen and the figures appear from the black background, enlighten by a lateral light source. The artist takes motifs from the mythology or religious paintings and translate them through the contemporary language, and transforms them in new subjects of an opened mythology.

“Dans la solitude des champs des coton”, Wahib Chehata, 2015. Photo Courtesy of ArtParis Art Fair


Under the controversial and uncertain, this gallery chooses to present the young Dutch‐Brazilian artist THE KID, who questions the problems of modern youth. His work let the audience confront with the today’s issues and injustices and invites the public to reflect upon the moral responsibility of our society. His solo exhibition at Art Paris 2017 had as main protagonist the today’s generation, who has to face a reviving if nationalism and fascism. In his hyper realistic paintings, THE KID analyses and criticizes our political context, not also recalls historical imagery of the 60's, as the youth was fighting for civil rights and against Vietnam war. In this way he creates a boundary between the past and the present generation, suggesting the guilt of the first one, for the perish of the second one.

"Damaged”, THE KID, 2017. Photo Courtesy of ArtParis Art Fair

Text by Carmen Frigerio


ArtParis Art Fair


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