Meschac Gaba: Museum of Contemporary African Art 1997 – 2002, London

Meschac Gaba opens Museum of Contemporary African Art 1997–2002 at Tate Modern this week. Fusing art and everyday life, the immersive installation takes over 12 rooms. The exhibition is set to question and transform the perceptions of African art and its position within museum spaces. Visitors can both view and interact with the selection of objects and environments presented in an exhibition that took five years to construct. Running until 22 September, this is the first time the exhibition is shown in its entirety in the UK.

Museum of Contemporary African Art 1997–2002  went into production during a residency Gaba had taken up in Amsterdam. Inspired by the feeling that there was no space in Europe for the type of work he wished to make, he uses his work to explore the related issues of cultural exchange and value. The 12 rooms within the exhibition make up a “museum within a museum”, combining the aesthetics of the art gallery with that of a West African market place. Some of the rooms event replicate familiar parts of the Tate-  including the shop, restaurant and library – while others offer alternative spaces for reflection, research and play, such as a salon, game room and music room.

Encouraged to interact directly with many aspects of the work, visitors can read books in the library, undergo tarot-reading and eat a series of evening meals cooked by invited artists. Over the years, the piece became increasing personal and Gaba also incorporated expressions of his own biography, including a Marriage Room containing photos, gifts and his wife’s wedding dress from their marriage ceremony at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. Meanwhile, the Library features and audio work in which the artist images what his late father might say about his son’s life.

Through the combination of personal and institutional critiques, interactive and reflective rooms, specifically created works and ready-made objects, constructs a completely unique space for visitors to experience Gaba’s innovative vision.

Meschac Gaba: Museum of Contemporary African Art 1997 – 2002, 3 July – 22 September, Tate Modern, Southbank, London.

1. Game Room (detail) From Museum of Contemporary African Art 1997 – 2002, Centro Atlantiko de Arte Moderno © Meschac Gaba Kunsthalle Fridericianum, Photo: Nils Klinger.
2. Museum of Contemporary African Art 1997 – 2002, Centro Atlantiko de Arte Moderno © Meschac Gaba.

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