The exhibition GEO-Graphics: A Map of Art Practices in Africa is currently showing at Bozar in Brussels as part of the Visionary Africa festival. The show includes 220 top pieces from the museum’s permanent collection and from private collections. The original plan was to take the show on tour from November, travelling to Libya, Ethiopia and Burkina Faso.
But the museum is concerned that there are as yet no suitable places available for showing the works, most of them made of wood. “There are all sorts of rules regarding humidity, temperature and light,” explained GEO-Graphics curator Anne-Marie Bouttiaux. “Security is also very important, and no simple matter. Even in Europe it’s not easy to find appropriate locations.”
Tripoli, the capital of Libya and the first planned stop, appears to have no suitable exhibition spaces at all, prompting the organisers of the tour to investigate the possibility of a government building to host the show.
“This collection is made up of top-class pieces worth an enormous amount of money,” said the Africa museum’s director, Guido Gryseels. “Up to now, there have been no concrete proposals on where the pieces are to be shown. Without guarantees, we’re not prepared just to let these pieces go off.”
In addition, Bouttiaux notes that the pieces are “extremely expensive to insure and to transport”. The European Commission has made a grant of €300,000, but it won’t be enough. The original ambitious plans may have to be cut back. “If we do send sculptures, it’s probably going to be a couple just as an example. We’ll certainly show a series of photos, and we may send some contemporary art works,” Bouttiaux said.
The last time art works were sent from Belgium to Africa was in the 1960s, during the reign of Zaire’s dictator Mobutu. Some of the sculptures on loan to the national museum in Kinshasa were stolen and never recovered.