The last time I went the Fondation Cartier was almost three years ago for the Ron Mueck exhibition. As with many of the Foundations owned by corporate companies in Paris, think Fondation Louis Vuitton and Fondation EDF, Foundation Cartier also showcases contemporary art. The current Beauté Congo exhibition, which runs until 15 November, includes painting, sculpture and photography, as well as a music programme.
The curators of some of these exhibitions must have the best jobs in the world – their jobs always seem to be a bit of fun, and a bit of play. I much prefer Foundation Cartier to Palais de Tokyo, which I find can sometimes put on exhibitions that tend towards the absurd in their bid to be ‘thought provoking’. My last show there was “Inside” which I went to see with my children, and they came out of it bored and confused, as opposed to thrilled and intrigued.
The Beauté Congo exhibition has collated art from the Democratic Republic of Congo, which covers the years 1926 to 2015, and showcases the evolution of the artists of the time from their depictions of village scenes to the more modern points of view as tastes changed. The exhibition spaces show the different generations represented in the exhibition The ground floor are paintings of the young and emerging Congolese artists. The paintings are bright and many depict themes that are observations of Congolese politics and society. For many, along with the images, there is always a text in the painting, giving the paintings a poster look, and comic presentation. Much of the art seemed to have been done with the intention of making a statement on societal and political themes. This style of painting was introduced in the 1970s by a group of artists who called themselves “Popular Painters, and in this ground floor exhibition space are the second generation artists of this movement.
The space downstairs shows photographs taken between 1950 and 1980 by the photographers: Ambroise Ngaimoko and Jean Depara. The photography shows photos of the social and night life of of a Congo. Alongside these photos are sculptures of the artists Rigoberto Nimi and Bodys Isek Kinglet, showing fantastical utopian cities.
The very first paintings of artists from the 1920s are also in the basement floor, and show the beginnings of modern art in the Congo. On display are watercolours of artists of the day, namely Antoinette and Albert Lubaki. Some of these paintings were good, but other rather rudimentary. It was lovely though, for a change, to see the diversity of African art – especially from a single country , and there was not a single wooden mask carving in sight. I like the exhibitions that Musée Dapper has on African Art and Culture, but feel there is a whole lot more to African art that can be shown to the world other than wooden masks and sculptures. This was a refreshing change.
Fondation Cartier, 261 Boulevard Raspail, 75014 Paris.