Kapwani Kiwanga, winner of the 20th Marcel-Duchamp Prize

It is not the great return of painting that the 20e edition of the Marcel-Duchamp Prize, awarded to the Pompidou Center, but rather armfuls of colored flowers, fragile symbols of fragile decolonization. With Flowers for Africa, Canadian Kapwani Kiwanga is the 2020 winner of the private collectors’ prize, with a poetic and political work …

Started during a residency in Senegal in 2013, this project is inspired by the floral decorum present during the negotiations and independence ceremonies of African countries. The artist found archives with photos of speeches and parades to reproduce the wreaths and bouquets, natural plant material, full of color and vitality, paradoxically promised to rot. The moving, vulnerable history, which quickly fades and is reborn, that is what interests the Franco-Canadian, trained in anthropology. “It is important for me to highlight in my work the personal dimension of my approach to history. I am above all a reader. An interpreter ”, Kapwani Kiwanga explained during an exhibition at Ferme du Buisson in 2016.

“Forgotten stories”

Presented at the Marcel-Duchamp Prize by the rapporteur Emanuele Coccia, philosopher, the career and the achievements of the 42-year-old artist impress: Kapwani Kiwanga wins many prizes and attracts the interest of the most prestigious institutions, such as MIT in Boston . Born in 1978 in Hamilton, Canada, to a Tanzanian father, Kapwani Kiwanga studied anthropology and comparative religion at McGill University in Montreal. Originally a documentary filmmaker, she gradually invested her subjective anthropology in the field of plastic arts and nourished her art “Forgotten stories”, stories that underpin contemporary geopolitics.

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Work from the series “Flowers for Africa”. Photo Centre Pompidou. ADAGP. Courtesy the artist and galerie Poggi

Arrived in France in 2005, she entered a post-diploma at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, went through Le Fresnoy and followed residencies in the Netherlands and La Box, in Bourges. His interest in history and anthropology then takes the form of installations, sculptures, photographs, videos or performances. At the Dubuisson farm, in 2016, she was interested, for example, in the material traces of the insurrection of the Maji-Maji between 1905 and 1907 against the German occupiers in Tanganyika (now Tanzania), a revolt little known and repressed in a bloodbath. Noticed in Canada since she won the Sobey Art Award in 2018 (the equivalent of the Duchamp in Canada endowed with 100,000 dollars) Kapwani Kiwanga is also the winner of the Frieze Award Artist in New York. Despite the enthusiasm for his work, most of the artist’s exhibitions have been postponed due to the health crisis. We can nevertheless see his syncretic project Nations at the Poggi gallery, which presents his third solo exhibition, alongside the exhibition at the Center Pompidou for the Marcel-Duchamp Prize.

Clementine Mercier


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