ABU BAKARR MANSARAY
b 1970 (Sierra Leone)
Citizen/scientist, artist/inventor, social/commentator, afro/futurist. Abu Bakarr Mansaray is an independent image-maker who is today respected as one of the pioneers of contemporary African art.
Mansaray’s idiosyncratic draughtsmanship stems from a childhood fascination with the magical and the scientific. His mythical machines, with their astounding details and interlocking visuals, seem otherworldly at first glance. Yet their origins are as personal talismans for a young man trapped by the horrors of Sierra Leone’s Civil War.
For it was during adolescence in the capital, Freetown, that the artist first combined his love of mathematics, engineering and science, with the manufacture of pseudo-kinetic models. These sculptures evolved an intimate science-fiction, which referred both to the tribal beliefs of his community and the horrors of the violence around him.
Fleeing to Holland in the 1990s, Mansaray continued to explore themes of conflict. As his confidence grew, so the works grew physically. Titles like SUFISTICATED HELL LIZARD, CHAMBER OF THE UNKNOWN, THE WITCH PLANE and BEYOND CREATION evidenced that both the inventor and his inventions remained inventive.
Yet this intricate detailing, logic and functionality, has always been counterbalanced by the delight with which the author chooses his words, names and captions. It is these, which hark back to the child within, whose fearless ego is nicknamed: The Master.
Mansaray’s practice continues to serve as a personal line of defence. For him, art treads a careful line between reality and fiction. For contained within each work is an aesthetic warning to mankind and a headline to jump-start social change and cohesion.
First displayed internationally at the Lyon Biennale (2000), Abu Bakarr Mansaray has risen to prominence through a number of key exhibitions, notably Simon Njami’s Africa Remix (2004), Why Africa (2008) at Pinacoteca Agnelli (Torino), Art/Afrique (2017) at Fondation Louis Vuitton (Paris) and The Museum of Everything (2016/17/18). The artist was also presented by curator Okwui Enwezor at the 56th Venice Biennale (2015).
Collections include the Contemporary African Art Collection (CAAC), the Houston Museum of Fine Art and The Museum of Everything.
Alpha Crucis, exhibition catalogue, Museum Astrup Fearnley, 2020
EXHIBITION #7, THE MUSEUM OF EVERYTHING 2018
Design Histories between Africa and Europe, flow of forms, forms of flow, Kerstin Pinther, Alexandra Weigand (eds.) Museum für Völkerkunde Hamburg, Germany, Transcript Design 2018
Essentiel Paysage - Artistes Contemporains Africains face à l'environnement, exhibition catalogue, Fondation Alliances, Musée MACAAL, Brahim Alaoui (Ed.), p. 159 2017
Alpha Crucis, Museum Astrup Fearnley (Oslo, Norway) 2020
Rothko in Lampedusa, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Palazzo Querini, (Venice, Italy) 2019
EXHIBITION #7, THE MUSEUM OF EVERYTHING (TASMANIA) 2017/8
Afro-Tech and the Future of Re-invention, Begleitheft zur Ausstellung, Exhibition Booklet, HMKV Hartware Medien Kunst Verein (Dortmund, Germany) 2018
Design Histories between Africa and Europe. Flow of Forms / Forms of Flow, Museum für Völkerkunde Hamburg (Germany) 2018
Art/Afrique : le nouvel atelier _ The Insiders : a selection of works (1989 to 2009) from the Jean Pigozzi collection of contemporary African Art, Fondation Louis Vuitton (Paris, France) 2017
Flow of Forms / Forms of Flow, Institut d'histoire de l'art, Louis-et-Maximilien University (Munich, Germany) 2017
AFRICA. Raccontare un mondo, PAC Padiglione d'Arte Contemporanea (Milano, Italy) 2017
Regarding Africa: Contemporary Art and Afro-Futurism, Art Museum (Tel Aviv, Israel) 2016
56ème Biennale de Venise, All the world's futures (Venice, Italy) 2015
Here Africa, Musée des Suisses dans le Monde (Geneva, Switzerland) 2014
African Stories, Ancienne Banque du Maroc, Marrakech, Morocco ARTPARIS+GUESTS. André Magnin & Leridon Collection, Grand Palais (Paris, France) 201
ACM, Mansaray, Rigo 23 & Volyazlovsky, Andrew Edlin Gallery (New York, USA) 2010
Insiders, CAPC (Bordeaux, France) 200
Africa ? Una nuova storia, Complesso del Vittoriano (Roma, Italy) 2009
Why Africa ? La collezione Pigozzi, Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli (Torino, Italy) 2007
100% Africa, Guggenheim Museum (Bilbao, Spain) 2006
African Art Now: Masterpieces from the Jean Pigozzi Collection, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Houston, USA National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution (Washington DC, USA) 2005/2006
Arts of Africa, The Contemporary collection of Jean Pigozzi, Grimaldi Forum (Monaco) 2005
Africa Remix, Museum Kunst Palast, Düsseldorf (Germany) / Hayward Gallery (London, UK) / Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris, France) / Mori Art Museum (Tokyo, Japan) / Johannesburg Art Gallery (Johannesburg, South Africa) 2004/2007
Partage d'Exotismes, Biennale d'art contemporain (Lyon, France) 2000