Meschac Gaba (born in Cotonou, Benin, 1961) worked on his Museum of Contemporary African Art from 1997 (with an exhibition at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam) to 2002 (with an exhibition at documenta 11). This large installation encompasses 12 rooms, which are now being presented in their entirety for the first time. The Kunsthalle Fridericianum is the initiator of this touring exhibition, which will first be on view at the Museum de Paviljoens in Almere, Netherlands.

In his art, Meschac Gaba focuses on issues around intercultural balance and imbalance. In his Museum of Contemporary African Art he presents 12 different rooms which were produced separately for different institutions in several countries: for example, the Library for the Witte de With in Rotterdam, the Game Room for the SMAK in Ghent, the Wedding Room for the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Humanist Space for the documenta 11 in Kassel, the Salon for the Palais de Tokyo in Paris and the Museum Restaurant for the W139 in Amsterdam.

At the Kunsthalle Fridericianum, “more” of Gaba’s work will be shown, as the title of the exhibition suggests. Among other works, the artist is producing a new installation especially for the show entitled Lake of Wisdom. This work consists of 12 aquariums with mirrored floors. Floating in the aquarium are the brains of 12 ‘grandes maîtres’, as Meschac Gaba calls them: Jesus Christ, Mahatma Ghandi, Desiderius Erasmus, Abraham Lincoln, Karl Marx, Louis Pasteur, Marcel Broodthaers, Kwame Nkrumah, Martin Luther King, Miriam Makeba, Harald Szeemann and King Ghezo from Benin. Lake of Wisdom is a work about memory, history and appreciation.

In addition, Gaba is planning a new production of his ‘Banknote’ series. While he once presented a portrait of himself rather than a head of state, in this series he shows portraits of the curators from the places and institutions at which individual rooms of the Museum of Contemporary African Art have been shown on poster-sized banknotes of the respective country’s currency. In Gaba’s art, money is a bearer of cultural identity and in its various manifestations a metaphor for interculturalism.


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