Saturday, 9 February 2013


Sadly, I never had the chance of my three minutes of fame, to be repeated three times, as part of the V&A’s AFRICA: SPEED SEARCH SOUND.

Feb 1st was, for me,  a chaotic day as I was exchanging and completing on the sale of my house on the same day having been given five days notice - or the deal was off!

There’s a cynical old project management saying - because half the time has passed does not mean half the job has been done. I've been selling my house for some time, so in principle I should have been set to go. Nevertheless there was much to do on that last day in order to hand the keys into the estate agent by 4pm that Friday and go on to be at the V&A for 6pm, for my three by three minutes of fame.

In short: happily, I made the former deadline, sadly, I missed the latter. The folk at the V&A where quite understanding and sympathetic, nevertheless I felt very bad, having let them down and I was personally,very disappointed.

So, for the record here's what I was going to say in my three minutes - the transcript of my three minutes.
This is a selection of 33 from 400 photographs by Walker Evans, a 32 year old American photographer who was commissioned by New York’s Museum of Modern Art – MOMA - to produce the photographic record of the objects displayed in the Museum’s 1935 exhibition – African Negro Art. 

Walker was noted for his photographs of sculptor, he documented the Depression and became one of the most influential photographers of the 20th century.

At the time MOMA was just six years old and was seeking to establish itself as THE gallery in New York to see Modernist painting and sculpture.

In African Negro Art MOMA wanted to demonstrate African Art’s influence on those Modernist sculptors and painters.

The curator of African Negro Art clearly saw that influence of African Art as he wrote about its :

...sensitiveness to material, freedom from naturalistic imitation and boldness of imagination [which] parallel many of the ideals of modern[ist] art.

That influence of African Art can be seen in Picasso’s Mademoiselle D'avignon; many believe him to be the greatest modernist painter and this his greatest work.
Handout to audience
The 600 plus works  came principally from west and central Africa - an area about the size of the United States, on loan from private and public collections across Europe and America including Picasso’s lifelong friend Henri Matisse, as well as Picasso’s dealer and champion Daniel Khanweiler but oddly no pieces from Picasso, himself.

The V&A’s curator's presentation of MOMA’s photographs shows how African Art can be both Art and Artifact – on one hand an object for aesthetic contemplation on the other an object of archaeological interest so the same objects may be exhibited in Art Galleries and Ethnological Museums. 
Documented Artifact - Archaeological Interest
Documented in a photograph with a number and label as an artifact, like a police mug shot or creatively lit and sensitively photographed by a leading photographer, mounted and framed as an art object – African Art is open to ambivalent understandings.
Framed Art Object - Aesthetic Contemplation
It is African Art’s supernatural combination of the sacred and the secular, the mysterious and the mundane that MOMA and modernist artist sensesed and for you to discover for yourself: African Negro Art -  Art or Artifact?

Thank you