Discover the history of Jean Pigozzi's collection

In his own words

Contemporary African Art Collection - The Jean Pigozzi Collection

Jean Pigozzi and Romuald Hazoumè, Nantes, 1993 (1993) by Jean PigozziContemporary African Art Collection - The Jean Pigozzi Collection

I became interested in contemporary art very early on and began to buy pieces taking quite a scattered approach. Then, I discovered contemporary African art in 1989, when I visited the exhibition "Magiciens de la Terre" at Grande Halle de la Villette in Paris, organized by the Centre Pompidou and curated by Jean Hubert Martin.

Esther Mahlangu and her son, Cheik Ledy, B.I. Kingelez and Romuald Hazoumè (1993) by Jean PigozziContemporary African Art Collection - The Jean Pigozzi Collection

It was quite a shock. I knew nothing about contemporary art in Africa, and the works by Chéri Samba, Frédérique Bruly Bouabré, Bodys Isek Kingelez, Esther Mahlangu, and Seyni Awa Camara really blew me away.

Jean Pigozzi et André Magnin entouré de plusieurs artistes, Antibes 2005 (2005)Contemporary African Art Collection - The Jean Pigozzi Collection

I then decided to begin a collection devoted exclusively to living artists working in sub-Saharan Africa, in collaboration with André Magnin, who was the deputy curator of "Magiciens de la Terre," who already knew a lot about the region, and dreamed of being able to keep exploring it.

Why Africa? Exposition à la Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli, Turin (2007) by Jean PigozziContemporary African Art Collection - The Jean Pigozzi Collection

What interested me about most of these artists was that their work was absolutely unique and unrelated to any school or art movement. Furthermore, for the most part they had no knowledge of art history.

André Magnin, Seydou Keïta and Jean Pigozzi, New York, 1997 (1997) by Seydou KeïtaContemporary African Art Collection - The Jean Pigozzi Collection

Take for example the great Malian photographer Seydou Keïta, who I discovered at the exhibition Africa Explores in New York, in 1991, where his photos were credited as Anonymous photograph, Bamako, Mali. In the 1950s, he produced very sophisticated portraits in his studio in Bamako with no knowledge of the history of Western photography or painting.

As a photographer myself, I was immediately captivated by his exceptional work and I also acquired numerous other photos taken in West African studios, notably by Malick Sidibé.

Vue de l'exposition Bodys Isek Kingelez au MoMA.Contemporary African Art Collection - The Jean Pigozzi Collection

I'm a pretty obsessive collector, I've made personal choices without any speculative intentions, and also without any ideas of putting together a showcase of contemporary African art, as a result of which some of today's very well-known artists are not in my collection at all.

Abu Bakarr Mansaray, Calixte Dakpogan, Rigobert Nimi, Chéri Samba, André Magnin, JP Mika, Romuald Hazoumé, Jean Pigozzi, Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris, 2017 (2017) by Jean PigozziContemporary African Art Collection - The Jean Pigozzi Collection

Over the last 30 years, I've assembled large groups of work by many artists from about 20 very different African countries. The collection continues to expand and it currently consists of more than 10,000 pieces.

100% Africa exhibition at the Guggenheim, Bilbao (2006) by Jean PigozziContemporary African Art Collection - The Jean Pigozzi Collection

I'm particularly happy about the many exhibitions we have organized all over the world, which have contributed a great deal to the recognition of contemporary African art within the art world, as well as allowing a wide audience to discover artists from the continent.

ErinaMatsui and Hiroki Tsukuda, Garage Center, Moscow, 2011 (2011) by Jean PigozziContemporary African Art Collection - The Jean Pigozzi Collection

Alongside this, from 2010 onward, I began to get interested in very young Japanese artists, born after 1985. I built this collection on my own, by making regular trips to Japan and exploring numerous galleries. One particularly interesting aspect of this collection is that about 40% of it consists of work by female artists, which is a very high proportion.

CollPigozzi.2011.JPGarageCenterMoscow.DSC01959Contemporary African Art Collection - The Jean Pigozzi Collection

The pieces are, of course, very different to my African collection—they're more eclectic, and abstract art plays a larger role among them. This young Japanese scene is relatively unknown in the West, but it is beginning to attract a lot more interest.

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Jean Pigozzi

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