The artist Otobong Nkanga (b. 1974) has realized a two-part project for Museum Folkwang, based on its collection.
As part of the Kunststiftung NRW’s Project 25/25/25, she first invited employees of the museum to be photographed with selected objects from the museum’s collection. One of these photographs has been printed in poster form and distributed throughout the city—allowing the museum to connect with local residents in their everyday lives. The posters are on view from 23 January to 12 February in public areas across the city of Essen.
In the second part of her work, Nkanga is constructing a complex installation containing drawings, textile prints, furniture exhibits, and objects in the Folkwang Collection. The Nigerian artist’s work uncovers the array of stories that lie hidden in a single museum object. Where do the museum’s objects come from? What stories do they tell? Which identities do they carry with them, and which identities do they shape? After researching the collections at Museum Folkwang, Otobong Nkanga has whittled down her selection to a single object for her show. A pedestal at the heart of the installation Tracing Confessions holds a marble hand scarred with scorch marks. Hands play a pivotal role in Nkanga’s art. In her drawings they often appear as fragments or are substituted by rods that link the human figures with objects. In the European cultural tradition, the sense of touch is an undervalued means of perception, especially when compared with sight, but for the artist it provides an emotional connection to the world. In four large-scale drawings, several smaller drawings, texts, and textile prints, Nkanga allows stories to unfurl, arising from this single stone fragment.
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