The Arab World Institute in Paris presents until March 2023 an exhibition of the iconic Algerian painter Baya.

An enigmatic bestiary

Through the exhibition “Baya, icon of Algerian painting. Women in their Garden“, the Arab World Institute in Paris, then the Center de la Vieille Charité in Marseille, pay tribute to the most singular Algerian artist of the 20th century, propelled from the age of 16 to the top of Notoriety. An invitation to (re)discover the enigmatic bestiary of his ceramics and especially his joyful and colorful paintings showing a luxuriant nature, like an ode to life.

A major exhibition at 16

Baya did not suffer, like other women artists, from a lack of visibility: she was 16 when the first major exhibition of her works was organized in Paris in 1947 by the gallery owner Aimé Maeght. Her work, wrongly described as “naive art” or “art brut”, exerted a major influence, particularly in Algeria where it was much imitated by the generations formed after Independence, for its singularity, its refinement and its spiritual dimension.

A very identifiable style

The works of Baya preserved in the Arab World Institute, increased by the Claude and France Lemand donation, form a set documenting all his periods of activity, from 1947 to his death in 1998. They complete the fabulous treasure of the National Overseas Archives of Aix-en-Provence and other loans. The whole allows us to grasp the evolution of her painting – with in particular the introduction of the theme of music from the 1960s – up to the moving works of 1998, the last produced by the artist.
“Baya. Women in their Garden” will also shed new light on the “Baya case” from a perspective of colonial and decolonial studies, supported by the exploration of his archives, in particular his correspondence with his adoptive mother Marguerite Caminat. How did this unschooled young girl (like 98% of the “indigenous” girls of her generation), who experienced suffering and violence, become, at the end of the colonial period, this Baya mastering the language of shapes and colors and creating a very identifiable style, propelled from the age of 16 to the height of notoriety, dazzling Parisian art lovers and being the subject of a double page (written by Edmonde Charles-Roux) in Vogue magazine ?
Visits, conferences, meetings and publications will analyze the historical, social, economic and aesthetic context of production of each of the periods of Baya’s career, and will study the works in their contingent, unique and universal aspects.

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