Ouattara Watts, story of a success

Posted by Florian Azzopardi on

With two exhibitions organized in Abidjan: one at the Rotonde des Arts, a center dedicated to contemporary art, and the other at Cécile Fakhoury’s gallery. The return after great success around the world to his native Ivory Coast at the end of 2018 of the internationally famous painter Ouattara Watts made a lot of noise.

Mixing paint with recovered objects and raw materials in addition to the dynamic shapes and sustained colors, creates a monumental composition. His canvases are the medium of exploration of spiritual bonds that transcend nationalities and territories and abolish classifications. He adds ideograms and hypnotic symbols that, in his opinion, refer to cosmos. He evokes his multicultural identity, as an artist who does not want to be ranked in any movement or school. This artist claims his freedom by refusing to enter a category or to be labelled as an African or black American artist. Music has a singular role in his work: Ouattara Watts paints while listening to jazz, reggae, popular songs or Afrobeat, which are all sources of inspiration. For example, he made the painting Oté-fê after listening to a reggae album by Alpha Blondy. In this painting, he evokes the looting of Africa’s raw materials and the degradation of the continent.

At the beginning of his career, Ouattara Watts did not want to exhibit his works immediately in galleries. However, he quickly attracted many collectors, including French-Spanish director and photographer Claude Picasso and interior designer Andrée Putman. After his decisive meeting with the American painter Jean-Michel Basquiat in 1988, his fame will continue to grow over the exhibitions where his work will be shown. In 1993, he attended the Venice Biennale and then exhibited at the Gagosian Gallery in New York in 1995. In 2002 he was represented at the Whitney Biennale in New York. Boulakia Gallery, in Paris, exhibited his works in 2015 and the value of his paintings was then estimated between 27,000 and 100,000 euros. His success has grown over the years, and his paintings are more and more appreciated. He was represented during "Afriques Capitales" exhibition at La Villette in Paris in 2017, whose main motivation was to show the real face of the continent by coming out of the exotic clichés. The same year, at the first sale of contemporary African art organized by Sotheby's in London, one of his paintings was bought for 34,000 euros.

His work now attracts collectors from all over the world and today, according to the gallerist Cécile Fakhoury, « he is the highest valued Ivorian artist. »

Written by Chloé Fayette