1st Edition

Dak'Art The Biennale of Dakar and the Making of Contemporary African Art

Edited By Ugochukwu-Smooth Nzewi, Thomas Fillitz Copyright 2021
    232 Pages
    by Routledge

    232 Pages
    by Routledge

    What can an art biennale in Dakar, Senegal, tell us about current discourses surrounding the place of art in the world, and in the academic study of anthropology? This volume investigates the Dak'Art biennale, ranked among the world's top 20 biennials, drawing upon fieldwork, archival research, and the experiences of those involved. In so doing, the chapters make a statement about the impact of globally-acting art biennials, contributing to current scholarship both on biennales and the anthropology of art scene more widely. 

    Part I opens with the history of its foundation and considers it in conjunction with the rise of contemporary art in Senegal. Part II deals with the biennale's various objectives, selection strategies, exhibition spaces, platforms for debate, and discourses between the State, the secretariat and local artists and art world professionals. Part III examines the cyclical creation of contemporary African art, and questions if the Biennial creates local canonical practices. The Epilogue uses the Dak'art biennale to question assumptions around practice in general biennale scholarship and work. Featuring a dialogic structure between practitioners of art and anthropologists, this unique volume will be of interest to students of anthropology, art history and practice, African studies and curatorial practice.


    Ugochukwu-Smooth Nzewi and Thomas Fillitz 

    Part 1: Historical Perspectives 

    1. The Foundation and History of the Biennale of Dakar 

    Ugochukwu-Smooth Nzewi   

    2. A Politico-Economic History of Modern and Contemporary Art in Senegal: From Négritude Current to the Logics of the Open Society 

    Massamba Mbaye 

    3. The 'Distancing Children' from Senghor's Openness Take a Stance

    Viyé Diba

    Part 2: Dak’Art—The Biennale of Contemporary African Art 

    4. Selection Committees, Selection Processes and Application Procedures

    Ugochukwu-Smooth C. Nzewi and Thomas Fillitz

    5. Encounters and Exchanges: An Intellectual History of the Biennale of Dakar 

    El Hadji Malick NDiaye 

    6. Dak’Art and the Production of its Public 

    Thomas Fillitz 

    7. The Biennale of Dakar and the State of Senegal

    Sylvain Sankalé

    8. Reimagining the Biennal of Dakar

    Koyo Kouoh and Eva Barois De Caevel

    Part 3: Contemporary African Art at Dak’Art 

    10. The Making of a Canon: Historicizing Contemporary African Art at Dak’Art 

    Ugochukwu-Smooth Nzewi 

    11. All the City is an Exhibition: The Dak’Art-Off in the Biennale and in Dakar’s Art World City  

    Joanna Grabski 

    12. Dak’Art’s Ecosystem: In and Out of Senegal 

    Iolanda Pensa 

    13. EPILOGUE: Global Biennial Discourses: A Critical View from Dak’Art 

    Thomas Fillitz and Ugochukwu-Smooth Nzewi


    Ugochukwu-Smooth Nzewi completed his PhD at Emory University, USA. He is a Visual Artist, Art Historian and Curator. He works at the Cleveland Museum of Art, USA.Thomas Fillitz is Professor of Cultural and Social Anthropology at the University of Vienna, Austria. He is the editor of An Anthropology of Contemporary Art (2017).