Art is in nature! It is the art that makes the artist. It is not the artist who makes the art. – Georges Adéagbo
The Art and History Museum, the United Nations Office at Geneva and ART for The World presents a double one man show of the artist Georges Adéagbo, Benin, conceived in two parts for the Palais des Nations, ONUG and for the Maison Tavel.
The first African artist to receive the Jury’s Grand Prize at the Venice Biennale in 1999, Mr. Adéagbo work reveals the affinities and similarities, sometimes unsuspected, that can exist between different cultures. In these two never before seen installations, the artist highlights both the permanent collection of Maison Tavel, the oldest residence in Geneva, and the UN archives stored in the Library of the Palais des Nations.
“Geneva, Switzerland of Yesterday and Geneva, Switzerland of Today” by Georges Adéagbo is an art project conceived, organized and realized by ART for The World – NGO associated with the UNDPI, Department of Public Information of the UN, in collaboration with South-North Kulturforum, Hamburg – Cotonou and in partnership with the Musée d’art et d’histoire and the Library of United Nations in Geneva.
“Like a contemporary archaeological site, Adéagbo’s achievements trace the destiny and evolution of humanity” says Adon Peres the curator of the exhibition.
Born in 1942 in Benin (then Dahomey), Georges Adéagbo currently works between Cotonou and Hamburg. The first African artist to receive the Jury’s Grand Prize at the Venice Biennale in 1999, he has participated in several prestigious international exhibitions such as the dOCUMENTA 11 in Kassel in 2002, the Paris Triennale, and the Palais de Tokyo in 2012. He was the artist of honor at the 2015 edition of ArtBasel. His works are now in famous collections such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Museum Ludwig in Cologne and the Toyota Municipal Museum of Art in Tokyo. Adéagbo has been linked with Geneva since 1995 when he participated in the exhibition Dialogues de Paix, an event organized by Adelina von Fürstenberg as part of the 50th anniversary of the UN.
The installations created by Adéagbo, are always constituted by the assembly of a large number of objects – found objects, sculptures, paintings, clippings of newspapers, books, etc.- collected both in his country of origin and in those visited by the artist. These different objects and documents, associated with his personal writings, are arranged in a precise system that generates particular relations between them. Arranged both on the floor and on the walls, as in a kind of market, they are there not to be purchased of course, but rather to create a philosophical dialogue between the different cultures to which they belong. They take on a symbolic value and evoke essential notions such as those of exchange and coexistence.
The possibility for the artist to intervene in the spaces of the Maison Tavel’s permanent collection – an exceptional historical place of importance on a regional and national scale that aims to enhance and preserve memory – fits perfectly into his approach and allows the creation of an exchange between his artistic practice and the collection of the museum. Within the framework of this new installation that Adéagbo designed for Maison Tavel in Geneva, beyond provoking dialogue between different cultures, this approach also draws attention to the works of the collection. As Stephan Köhler points out, following the artist’s work since 1999, Adéagbo’s approach seeks to “raise dialogue between the objects introduced and those already existing and not to create a fracture”. His research is characterized by the desire to reveal affinities and similar aspirations, sometimes unsuspected, that can exist between different cultures.
Cultural activities organized within the United Nations include exhibitions, concerts, performances, film screenings, cultural lectures, and a collection of works of art through numerous donations. This program is a celebration of the cultural diversity present in the United Nations and offers a forum for exchange and the sharing of traditions and cultures. These exchanges are essential for building peace, tolerance and prosperity among peoples. For this double exhibition in two key locations of the City of Geneva, Georges Adéagbo started from the principle of a “source,” the history of Geneva, represented by the permanent collection of Maison Tavel, and a continuation, embodied by the UN’s commitment in various fields concerning the world.