Georges Adéagbo has been awarded this year’s Finkenwerder Art Prize. Since 1999, the award, which is issued by the Kulturkreis Finkenwerder and comes with a prize donated by the company Airbus Operations, has gone out to artists who have made an outstanding artistic contribution to contemporary art in Germany. The jury of experts appointed by the Kulturkreis Finkenwerder’s Board of Trustees awarded Adéagbo with the esteemed prize for his thoughtful reflections on the nature and origins of cultural differences, and his masterful articulation of the complexities of cultural identity.
Georges Adéagbo, born in Contonou, Benin, and now living between there and Hamburg, Germany, uses a multilayered process of assemblage to compose site-specific and room-filling installations that synthesize a broad range of historical, political, cultural and geographical symbols, objects and elements. Harvesting materials on his travels from antiquarian bookshops, flea markets, and his everyday surroundings, Adéagbo will often bring these found materials back to his home and studio space in Benin, compose his arrangements, and then inject them with Béninoises objects and symbols before shipping them back to The U.S and Germany, thereby subverting the dominant chronological sequence by which African art has been stolen, appropriated, and aesthetically incorporated into art markets in The West. He challenges the dominant narrative imposed by the West onto “African” art (which implicitly frames it as an homogenous “Other”), while also, deftly, reordering this relationship through his methodology.
Because of the nature of his works’ composition, Adéagbo is able to fuse broad social commentary–addressing issues of globalization, colonialism, and foreignness–with deeply intimate and personal reflections on memory and identity, creating his own poetics of ontology tracing the fractures of identity and history in a post-colonial eon. By restructuring the discursive and material modes through which this colonial encounter has been traditionally framed (both historically and in the Western Art Historical Canon) and understood, Adéagbo subtly comments on the psychological and epistemological consequences of displacement, assimilation, and attempts at social belonging, while situating his subjective experience and perspective at the center of the conversation.
Georges Adéagbo, who did not receive a classic art education, was noticed fairly late by the international art world. Although he did not see himself as an artist, he independently put his ideas into practice every day in Cotonou, using found objects, images, and texts. Since the mid-1990s, he has become a regular fixture in prominent exhibitions, and he became the first African artist to receive an award for his participation in the 48th Venice Biennale in 1999. He took part in the documenta 11 in 2002 with a site-specific installation. He has also had solo exhibitions at the Museum Ludwig in Cologne (2004), the MAK in Vienna (2009), the MUSAC Leon (2011), and the Moderna Museet in Stockholm (2014). He is now one of the most famous West African artists and is internationally renowned. His most recent project in Hamburg was the public art installation in 2015 called Inverted Space, which he created in collaboration with the Kulturforum Süd-Nord (Stephan Köhler) and the project Stadtkuratorin.
On the occasion of the Finkenwerder Art Prize, the Kunsthaus Hamburg will present a solo exhibition from 5 September to 3 October 2017 that will offer extensive insight into the prize winner’s work. This will be the first time his works will be shown at an art institution in the City of Hamburg, which is his second home. Georges Adéagbo will also present a work on site for the award presentation on 31 August in the Airbus Factory in Finkenwerder, Hamburg.