Armory Focus 2016

Africa Headlining

Amory Focus, an important part of the Armory Show – New York’s annual art fair – was entitled African Perspectives this year. A conversation with guest curators Julia Grosse and Yvette Mutumba, founders of the online platform for international art from African perspectives Contemporary And, informed us on what underpinned this unparalleled event.

This article forms part of the original interview, published in the second editorial destination on Intense Art Magazine’s journey, IAM#02 | SENEGAL. 

Julia Grosse And Yvette Mutumba © Benjamin Renter

Yvette Mutumba (YM) : We persistently notice that African art is homogenised as a single category and marginalised. We want to emphasise that it is much more complex, heterogeneous and that ‘contemporary African art’ does not exist. Instead, our Armory Focus addressed African perspectives to underline the variety of practices found across the continent and diaspora. Hopefully, one day we will not need to stress ‘Africa’ in our activities anymore.

Rosalie Van Deursen (RVD) : The selection engaged with a wide range of media and themes, from the intimate and personal to more engaged, anthropological, or historical issues. How did you proceed?
YM :
The choice for diversity in themes and media (painting, video, photography, performance, installation, drawing) functioned as a counterbalance to the idea that African art consists of specific aesthetics or topics. Moreover, we wanted to show there is a history of African artists who paved the way for a new generation, including exhibited masters Ibrahim El-Salahi (Sudan) and Aubrey Williams (Guyana). The section ‘Spotlighting Artistic Practices of Global Contemporaries’ included artists from the younger generation with international backgrounds and some others that never left the city where they were born and raised.

“The choice for diversity in themes and media functioned as a counter balance to the idea that African art consists of specific aesthetics or topics”


RVD : You chose quality over quantity?
YM :
Yes, the curatorial form we chose was to invite a selection of galleries to present solo shows, which gave each artist the space to breathe. Ideally we would have loved to show a wider number of artists, but this was too complex.

RVD : Which place did women artists occupy?
Julia Grosse (JG) :
We selected Kapwani Kiwanga (Canada) as the commissioned artist. She was the star not only of the Focus Section but of the whole Armory Show. Kiwanga’s multi-layered research-based practice embodies everything, which we find relevant. The other female artists selected were Lebohang Kganye (South Africa), Namsa Leuba (Guinea/Switzerland), Turiya Magadlela (South Africa), Ato Malinda (Kenya), Mame-Diarra Niang (Senegal), Nengi Omuku (Nigeria) and Ruby Onyinyechi (Nigeria)…

Read the rest of the interview in IAM#02 | SENEGAL, available to order here.

The Armory Show
3 – 6 March 2016
Piers 92 & 94
711 12th Ave
New York, NY 10019

07.06.2016 – Interview by Rosalie Van Deursen – Images: Courtesy the photographers and the artists.

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