African Marketplace

Article released: Wednesday, 05 June, 2002

African Marketplace opened at the Ivan Dougherty Gallery in August 2002. Focusing on forms of visual culture that confound western distinctions between ‘high art’ and popular art and craft, African Marketplace traces a complex set of relationships between art and the market.

The exhibition included a range of images and objects that either have communal or mercantile origins, or respond in some way to the theme of the market: barbershop and medicine boards, originally made to order for proprietors of market stalls and shops, which have found their way onto the international art market; works by major African artists including Romuald Hazoume and Cyprien Tokoudagba, coffin-maker Kane Kwei, Freddy Ramabulana, William Kentridge, and Meschac Gaba, whose work featured in Documenta 11; beadwork, textiles and telephone-wire bowls, objects developed initially for local use that have increasingly evolved for both the tourist market and for Western art and design markets.

The African Marketplace catalogue features an essay by David McNeill, deputy director of the CCAP. As McNeill points out, the objects and images included in the exhibition embody processes of cultural exchange and globalisation, but they also reveal some of the ways in which market culture in Africa presents a vibrant alternative to the ‘ free market’ of western economic rationalism.