Art, trauma, animism and money: the legend of Seyni Awa Camara – rts.ch

Art, trauma, animism and money: the legend of Seyni Awa Camara – rts.ch
Art, trauma, animism and money: the legend of Seyni Awa Camara – rts.ch

André Magnin is a gallery owner and dealer, specializing in contemporary African art. He is one of the main architects and beneficiaries of the international critical and economic success of Seyni Awa Camara. He admires his artistic power. However, he himself views these stories with distance. “She would have received training in the forest, she would have been fed by monkeys… It seems, finally…” And to continue: “She says a lot of things, no one knows if it is true”.

He nevertheless asked the sculptor Louise Bourgeois, no less, to write a text on the works of Seyni Awa Camara. A text which, from the title, nevertheless announces the color: “Black magic”. Whatever we say, animism, spirits, fertility, motherhood and the forest seem to constitute the ideal tags to promote and sell a sub-Saharan artist, particularly in France in the 1980s and 1990s: we appreciate it even in the variety song such an image of the once colonized continent.

In any case, it is to André à Magnin that the work of Seyni Awa Camara owes its fortune in the Western art world. The press was able to call him “kingmaker”. And a queen.

Her account of the meeting with the artist is very similar to that of Michèle Odeyé-Finzi. But as a bargainer, he asks her if she could make larger pieces. What she will do. In 1989, a major exhibition took place in Paris, between Beaubourg and the Grande Halle de la Villette: “The magicians of the earth”. Artists from all over the world and from different traditions are exhibited there. But we aspire not to see ethnic art there. It’s simply art. This in itself is something new. André Magnin has pieces by Seyni Awa Camara exhibited there. They can be admired alongside the works of Louise Bourgeois, who was already a star of contemporary art at that time.

In 2001, a piece by Seyni Awa Camara was exhibited at the Venice Biennale. “It took a while for people to become interested in it,” comments André Magnin. “But for several years, I don’t know what’s happening, everyone’s looking for it. Well, everyone, we get along! “

By surfing the Internet and auction sites, it is easy to see that there is a significant market for his works today. They are still sold by André Magnin. Large sumptuous pieces can sell for around 30,000 euros, explains the dealer. But he is not the only one on this market: they can be found at other prestigious galleries, such as Baronian (Brussels), or Nino Mier (Los Angeles, New York, Marfa, Brussels).

Also in Dakar, the dealer Pape Samba presents several dozen in his gallery. And he too doesn’t understand how the market for Seyni’s works works, to whom he regularly visits to pick up pieces: she should live in opulence. This is not the case. For what? “That’s the question everyone is asking,” exclaims Pape Samba.

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