CONVERSATION BETWEEN MICHAEL STEVENSON / JOOST BOLAND
AND MESCHAC GABA

A discussion around the practice of Meschac Gaba and its relevance to curatorship and thinking the
museum.”

“This museum does not exist in reality. It is a concept, an idea that takes shape at some location and
disappears again, or travels to another space, altered and is never the same again. Some spaces, like
the Museum Restaurant, only existed once and will never be repeated. But who has visited a
presentation of this museum, or has taken part of the event that this presentation always is, will never
forget its strong physical impact. The body of the visitor is almost at every occasion involved, one way
or the other.”

Bert Steevensz, Library of the Museum – Museum of Contemporary Art (Artimo, 2001)
Meschac Gaba was born in 1961 in Cotonou, Benin. He studied at the Rijksakademie voor Beeldende
Kunsten in Amsterdam in 1996-7, and currently lives in Rotterdam. It was at the Rijksmuseum, Leiden,
in 1997 that Gaba inaugurated his major work, the Museum of Contemporary African Art, a project in
which the artist installed 12 ‘rooms’ of a nomadic museum in various institutions over a period of five
years, culminating with his presentation of a ‘Humanist Space’ at Documenta 11. Other ‘rooms’ include
the Museum Restaurant (shown at W139, Amsterdam, in 1999), the Games Room (shown in Besançon,
France, in 1999 and in Brussels and Gent in 2000), the Library of the Museum (Witte de With, 2001,
and published in book form, also 2001), and the Salon (Palais de Tokyo, Paris, 2002). Gaba’s survey
exhibition Museum for Contemporary African Art & More showed at the Museum de Paviljoens in
Almere, the Netherlands; the Kunsthalle Fridericianum in Kassel, Germany; and the Centro Atlántico de
Arte Moderno in Las Palmas, Canary Islands, in 2009/10. His Tresses series has showed at inIVA in
London (2006) and the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2005). Other solo shows include Glue Me
Peace at the Nobel Peace Center, Oslo (2006), and Tate Modern, London (2005). Group shows include
The Global Contemporary: Art Worlds after 1989 at ZKM Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe, Germany
(2011); Touched, the 2010 Liverpool Biennial; Gaba’s curatorial project Glück – Welches Glück, at the
Deutsches Hygiene-Museum in Dresden, Germany (2008); Port City at Greenland Street Gallery,
Liverpool (2008); Africa Remix (2004-2007) and, in 2006, the São Paolo, Gwangju, Sydney and Havana
biennales.
Gaba is included on the Biennale Bénin 2012 - Inventing the Word: The Artist as Citizen (8 November to
13 January), showing the Residence Library from his Museum of Art and Active Life (MAVA) as part of
Special Projects; and on When Attitudes Became Form Become Attitudes: A Restoration / A Remake /
A Rejuvenation / A Rebellion, at CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco.

Also see www.museumofcontemporaryafricanart.com