Wood carvings entered in a contest attract attention at the Venice Biennale

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Wood carvings of contested ancestors owned by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) will be exhibited by the artist collective Cercle d’Art de Travailleurs des Plantations Congolaise ( CATPC). . The work will be exhibited at a gallery in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) town of Lusanga and live-streamed to the Netherlands Pavilion during the Biennale, which runs from April 20 to November 24, 2024.

The wooden statue was carved by Pende artists from the Kvir department of the DRC after the 1931 Pende rebellion against Belgian colonial rule. It depicts Maximilian Ballot, an abusive colonist who is beheaded during a riot, and is intended to include: And control his angry heart. That way, we will be able to protect the people of Pende.

The sculpture, known as “Ballot,” was purchased by an American collector in 1972 for just $120. He then sold it to the VMFA, where it has been since 2015. CATPC has long called for the doll to be returned to Lusanga, where it would be reunited with members of the local community, from traditional chiefs to current plantation workers.

Chief or fortune teller figure representing Belgian colonial officer Maximilian Barot, circa 1931. Photo: Travis Fullerton, © 2015 Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

“By restoring balance and correcting past injustices, Barot’s return makes it possible to buy back the land taken by colonial forces,” said artist Sedar Tamasara on behalf of CATPC. Stated. “This will allow us to abolish forced and destructive monocultures and plant, regenerate and nourish sacred forests.”

VMFA Director Alex Nierges said the museum is “delighted to be partnering with CATPC” and hopes “this will stimulate a new era of cooperation and partnership between museums on both continents.” ” he added.

These comments suggest that some sort of settlement has occurred between CATPC and VMFA since 2022, when an artist collective minted a collection of 300 NFTs containing rotating images of Ballot without the museum’s permission. .

“Unfortunately, NFTs have broken all trust between the VMFA and the exhibition organizers,” he told Artnet News at the time, branding NFTs “unacceptable.” He added that VFMA will no longer lend CATPC any works to be exhibited at White Cube, an art gallery in Lusanga that CAPTC established in 2017.

Now it appears they’ve changed their mind and Ballot is scheduled to be released to the public in White Cube in April. The loan is funded by the Mondrian Foundation, which organizes the Dutch Pavilion.

CATPC will invest the proceeds from the art project into buying back plantation land previously owned by Unilever. The collective has been collaborating with Dutch artist Renzo Martens for many years and will partner with him again for an exhibition at the Dutch Pavilion in Venice.

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