The SCAD Museum of Art announces the first showing of The Divine Comedy: Heaven, Purgatory and Hell Revisited by Contemporary African Artists in the United States. The exhibition will be on view Friday, Oct. 17, through Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015, at the SCAD Museum of Art, 601 Turner Blvd, in Savannah, Georgia. The exhibition will occupy the museum’s entire gallery space of nearly 20,000 square feet and also extend to the outdoor courtyard and satellite locations along Savannah’s Martin Luther King corridor.
To celebrate the exhibition’s U.S. debut, curator Simon Njami will moderate a panel featuring exhibiting artists Joël Andrianomearisoa, Bili Bidjocka, Ingrid Mwangi and Moataz Nasr. The panel will take place at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 16, at the SCAD Museum of Art. An exhibition reception will follow at 6 p.m. Both the panel and the reception are free and open to the public.
The Divine Comedy: Heaven, Purgatory and Hell Revisited by Contemporary African Artists explores thematic sequences of Dante Aligheiri’s epic poem through new works by more than 40 contemporary artists from 19 African countries, as well as the African diaspora. Through a variety of media, the exhibition demonstrates how concepts visited in Dante’s poem transcend Western traditions and resonate with diverse contemporary cultures, belief systems and political issues. Overall, the exhibition provides a probing examination of life, death and continued power of art to express the unspoken and intangible.
“The concern here is not with the Divine Comedy or Dante,” explained Njami, “but with something truly universal. Something that touches us all to the very core, regardless of our beliefs or convictions: our relationship to the afterlife. In other words, it’s about our relationship to life and — thus — also to death.”
Originally presented by the Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt/Main (MMK) in Frankfurt, Germany, earlier this year, the SCAD Museum of Art’s presentation will include several works not previously exhibited: neon work by Kendell Geers, a photo series by Youseff Nabil, large-scale works on paper by Christine Beatrice Dixie, a sound installation by Frances Goodman incorporating bridal fabrics cascading from the ceiling, an outdoor calligraphy garden by Moataz Nasr and a collage by Wangechi Mutu.
“The exhibition creates a powerful and culturally-layered dialogue between timeless questions and the voices of exceptional contemporary artists,” said Laurie Ann Farrell, SCAD executive director of exhibitions and organizer of the exhibition who previously served as a curator at the Museum of African Art in New York. “Our hope is that it will inspire the SCAD community of artists and designers, the Savannah community, and audiences from around the world to consider significant philosophical and ethical questions from entirely new and varied perspectives.”
Following the SCAD Museum of Art, the exhibition will travel to the National Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
Njami is an independent curator, lecturer, art critic and essayist. He is co-founder and editor-in-chief of the cultural magazine Revue Noire. Previously, Njami was the artistic director of the Bamako photography biennial from 2000 to 2010, co-curator of the first African pavilion at the 52nd Venice Biennale in 2007 and artistic director of the Luanda and Douala triennials and the Lubumbashi biennial. He has curated numerous exhibitions, including Africa Remix (an international touring exhibition 2004-2007), A Collective Diary (2010), A Useful Dream (2010) and the Johannesburg Art Fair (2008). Njami is author of two biographies (James Baldwin, 1991 and Léopld Sédar Senghor, 2007) and has contributed essays for the catalogues for the Sydney Biennale, Documenta and others. The Divine Comedy is Njami’s third collaboration with SCAD. He previously curated Le Miroir (The Mirror) in 2012, an exhibition of Mohamed Bourissa’s work, which was on view at the SCAD Museum of Art as well as SCAD galleries in Atlanta, Lacoste and Hong Kong. He also served as the keynote speaker at the university’s 2010 Art History Symposium: Africa on My Mind.
The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) is a private, nonprofit, accredited institution conferring bachelor’s
and master’s degrees at distinctive locations and online to prepare talented students for professional careers. SCAD
offers degrees in more than 40 majors.
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