artist / participant

press release

Michael Stevenson is pleased to present new work by Meschac Gaba in his first solo exhibition in South Africa. Gaba was born in 1961 in Cotonou, Benin. He studied at the Rijksakademie voor Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam in 1996-7, and currently lives in Rotterdam.

Gaba is best known for his Museum of Contemporary African Art, a project in which he installed 12 'rooms' of a nomadic museum in various institutions over a period of five years starting in 1997, culminating with his presentation of a 'Humanist Space' at Documenta11. Gaba's project mirrored and arguably anticipated both curatorial debates about contemporary art from Africa, and the increasingly nomadic nature of the international art world in the 21st century.

This exhibition will comprise new works from Gaba's Tresses series in which he reinterprets iconic buildings in the form of braided artificial hair sculptures. On a research trip to South Africa in 2006, Gaba selected 10 buildings ranging from the Sentech Tower in Johannesburg to the Castle in Cape Town. He then produced architectural drawings in Rotterdam, which his studio in Cotonou, Benin, used to craft the objects. Gaba uses the French term métissage (literally 'mixed-race') as a metaphor for global culture, of which both hair-braiding and architecture are instances.

The Tresses series premiered at the Studio Museum in Harlem, where Gaba presented replicas of buildings from Cotonou and New York City. Since then, he has made works based on landmarks in London and Paris. See

Gaba is included on the exhibition Africa Remix, which ends its international tour at the Johannesburg Art Gallery (24 June to 30 September 2007). In 2006 he took part in the São Paolo, Gwangju, Sydney and Havana biennales. Tresses has shown at inIVA in London (2006) and the Studio Museum in Harlem (2005). Other recent solo shows include Glue Me Peace at the Nobel Peace Centre in Oslo (2006) and Tate Modern, London (2005).

Gaba inaugurated his major work, the Museum of Contemporary African Art, at the Rijksmuseum, Leiden, in 1997. He subsequently created the Museum Restaurant at W139, Amsterdam, in 1999; the Games Room in Besançon, France, in 1999 and in Brussels and Gent in 2000; the Library of the Museum (Witte de With, Rotterdam, 2001, and published in book form, also 2001), and the Salon (Palais de Tokyo, Paris, 2002). Apart from exhibiting extensively, Gaba has also undertaken residencies in Recife, Brazil, in preparation for the São Paolo Bienal (2006); at Couvent des Récollets, Paris, France (2005), and at PS1 Contemporary Art Center, New York (2003/4).

only in german

Meschac Gaba