From the 25th of January 2020 the pop-up exhibition NOW LOOK HERE – The African Art of Appearance in Amsterdam North presents the work of eighteen African artists who use outward appearances to tell a deeply rooted story. They upend perceptions of Africa through the use of irony, beauty and style.
BEYOND THE IMAGE
This group exhibition showcases the work of eighteen African artists whose work at first glance stands out for its attention to outward appearance: everything is colourful, radiant, smooth, and aesthetic. On closer inspection, the seductive surface proves to be a lure that draws visitors into a deeper story, in which perspectives are reversed: white becomes black, stigma becomes beauty, a skivvy turns out to be a high priestess, and apparent footnotes to history are revealed as prominent figures.
The works address, directly or indirectly, the historical abuses and current troubles that dominate the media image of Africa. But the artists take charge of this image, and in doing so, set a completely different tone. What connects the photos, videos and performances in NOW LOOK HERE is a superior game of clichés and prejudices, in which humour, beauty and optimism challenge daily reality.
STYLE AS A COUNTERFORCE
NOW LOOK HERE unites these art works under the thematic heading ‘The African Art of Appearance’. The exhibition is an outtake of the N’GOLÁ biennial on the African islands of São Tomé & Príncipe held earlier this year, from the 26th of July until the 18th of August 2019, curated by Renny Ramakers. During her research she was struck by the extent to which fashion, style and beauty can be manifestations of dignity, identity and self-realisation on the African continent. This paradox of apparent superficiality that actually functions as a serious counterforce, developed into an important theme for the exhibition. The end result in São Tomé & Príncipe emphasised this coherence. It provoked a dialogue between the artworks as much as between the artists —who were almost all present at the opening—that merits continuation.
NOW, LOOK, HERE
All the artists participating in NOW LOOK HERE were therefore invited to the Netherlands to participate in the public programme at the opening on 24th January 2020 and the artist talks on the 25th. The exhibition takes place in a former warehouse on the Asterweg, the new hotspot in Amsterdam North. The works in NOW LOOK HERE invite the public to look at Africa with fresh eyes: artists there have been working on a different narrative about the continent for quite some time: look, here, now.