In Nigerian artist Chike Obeagu’s “Private Viewing,” a white couple wearing comical expressions look at art with bulging eyes. The painting, one of the first things you see when you enter Richard Taittinger Gallery on the Lower East Side, serves as a mirror to those perusing the latest exhibit there, titled “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?”
“This is the art market,” explained curator Ugochukwu-Smooth C. Nzewi, gesturing towards Obeagu’s pop-eyed figures. “They’re saying, let’s find Africa.”
With this image in mind, Nzewi has put together the work of 12 contemporary artists from Africa for this exhibit. As interest in contemporary African art within the global art market grows, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” is as much a statement of fact as it is a question.
“We wanted to come up with an exhibition that is about Africa but at the same time not about Africa,” said Nigerian-born Nzewi, who recently co-curated the 11th Dak’Art Biennale, “a foremost platform for contemporary art in Africa.” “When one thinks of the works of contemporary African artists, there’s always a certain kind of value attached to these works, what I call ‘the burden of Africanism.’”