• Events

Interview with French Gallerist André Magnin

MAGNIN-A is a contemporary art gallery created in 2009 in Paris by André Magnin and directed by Philippe Boutté, recognized experts in modern and contemporary African art. The Magnin-A gallery represents well-known and emerging contemporary African artists. It works for the promotion and diffusion of artists at the most important international fairs and exhibitions. The gallery will be at The Armory Show from March 5-8.

Where is your booth at the Fair and how did you curate the booth?

The gallery is at the 614th stall of Pier 94. We are coming to New York to present 9 artists from Francophone countries – photographers, sculptors, and painters that have become historic, as well as young creators who are starting to attract attention around the world – to institutions and collectors. For a few years, the United States has been increasingly interested in African Art. Our goal is to help people better understand the art from the continent and to permit these artists to reach prestigious collections.

Which artist(s) from the gallery are you presenting at the Fair? Which are/is the work(s) presented on stand?

We are presenting the work of Chéri Samba, Omar Victor Diop, Romuald Hazoumè, Seydou Keïta, JP Mika, Fabrice Monteiro, Amadou Sanogo, and Malick Sidibé. These artists are all living in large cities of Central or West Africa: Kinshasa, Dakar, Cotonou and Bamako. They are photographers, painters, and sculptors who are open to the world and deeply intrenched in their own cultures.

Can you provide us more insight into your artistic pool?

In 1989, I was the assistant commissioner of the exposition Magiciens de la Terre (Magicians of the Earth), presented at the Centre Pompidou and at the Grande Hall de la Villette. This exposition, conceived by Jean Hubert Martin, was the first to present contemporary art from all five continents on equal footing. This exposition changed the way that we look at artists from non-occidental cultures. For the first time, contemporary art could no longer be summed up as American and European art.

After having visited the exposition, Jean Pigozzi proposed that I put together the collection that he was hoping to dedicate to artists from Sub-Saharan Africa. For 25 years, I split my life between the Occident and Africa, discovering, on the ground, an unexpected stage. I am passionate about art, and I have, without a doubt, become a specialist of modern and contemporary African art. I have been the general and/or scientific commissioner of a large number of individual and collective expositions at important international institutions: The Tate Modern, The Guggenheim Bilbao, La Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, The Museum of Fine Art of Houston, Hara Museum, Pinacoteca Agnelli, and the NY MoMA. My last exposition was AlphaCrucis (17 living artists from 9 countries of Sub-Saharan Africa), launched in January 2020 at the l’Astrup Fearnley Museet.

Why have you chosen to take part in the Armory Show?

This is one of the most important trade shows in the United States and in the world. It is a historic trade show where many French gallery owners and artists gained international recognition. Thus, it is special for us, coming from Paris, and we are excited to participate in the Armory Show for the first time.

Since the beginning of the 2000s, I have been organizing museum expositions in prestigious American institutions: the M.F.A.H. of Houston, the Smithsonian in Washington, and the Dia Center for Art in New York. These institutions have helped an American audience get to know contemporary African art. Little by little, numerous collections and museums have started to follow our activities, and, in 2017, Bodys Isek presented a solo show at MoMA. Last year, Jeana Pigozzi offered 50 major works from his collection to the museum. It is thus that Chéri Samba and Romuald Hazoumé, whom we will be showcasing at the Armory Show, are now part of one of the most prestigious Contemporary Art collections in the world. All of these recent happenings have reinforced the interest of art collectors in African art. We are coming to defend the work of these artists.

When did you start the gallery and where is your gallery located in France?

From 1989 to 2019, I was the director of the Contemporary African Art Collection, The Pigozzi Collection, which I put together over the course of over twenty years of research in all of Sub-Saharan Africa and at what is still the most important private collection of contemporary African art in the world. In 2019, I opened the Magnin-A gallery in Paris to defend the work of contemporary African artists in the international contemporary art market. The programming of Magnin-A allowed us to integrate important international trade shows like the Fiac and Paris Photo (Paris and Los Angeles), as well as 1-54 London, New York and Marrakech and, from now on, the Armory Show.

This interview is released in partnership with the Comité professionnel des Galeries d’art, partner of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy and of Etant donnés's residency program.