The role of foundations in the development of the contemporary African scene

Posted by Maxence Zabo on

The interest for contemporary creation in Europe has intensified for several years. In 1989, at the Center Pompidou and La Grande Halle de la Villette in Paris, "Les Magiciens de la Terre" [Magicians of the Earth] is the first exhibition of contemporary art in France with African artists. Since then, contemporary art has not stopped to gain importance in Europe and some artists are now recognized internationally.


"Magicien de la Terre" exhibition poster  - Paris 1989


Even though access to major artistic institutions remains limited to sub-Saharan African artists, exhibiting in the West seems to be the guarantee of an international fame, a promoted works and getting the collectors. The art market is little developed in Africa, and Europe is a true springboard for the artists. However, some European states have responded to the needs of cultural institutions, in permanent search of funds. Faced with this, private initiatives are multiplying. More and more foundations are investing in highlighting contemporary African art, using their resources to encourage their development and facilitate their recognition to the public. Whether in Europe or in Africa, these foundations developed various approaches to make the creation shine.

In France, one of the challenges is to offer contemporary African artists a more important place on the market. The Jean-Paul Blachère corporate foundation has been involved in their promotion and recognition of their art since 2004. It discovers and accompanies new talents. The setting up of an artists' residence gives the possibility to visual artists to work with the materials provided by the company Blachère Illumination, specialized in the luminous decorations. This is to give contemporary African art a place on the international market.

Zinsou Fondation in Ouidah (Benin)


Faced with the affirmation of artists beyond the African continent, it is now essential to exhibit their creations on their native land, in order to promote their local recognition. In this issue, the Zinsou Foundation plays a key role. Founded in 2015 in Cotonou, Benin, it carries out pedagogical, cultural and social actions in order to highlight the creation, to promote the artists and to favor the access of the local population to the culture. In 2013, the Zinsou Foundation Museum is the first museum of African contemporary art to appear on the continent. The foundation enjoys an international reputation, which testifies to its major importance. She embodies contemporary African creation, and places the continent in the rank of actor of the world of art.


Written by Chloé FAYETTE