For the sale taking place on 18 March, Artcurial
will present an exhibition of the Artists of Le Hangar on 13, 15 and 16 March 2021. These artists worked in the studio of Pierre Romain-Desfossés in the mid 20th century in Elisabethville (today known as Lubumbashi in the Democratic Republic of Congo).
Artcurial will present some thirty works by the masters of Congolese modern art, including Mode Muntu, Bela Sara, Pilipili, Mwenze Kibwanga and Kabinda. The exhibition of museum quality, with works coming principally from Belgian collections, reveals the connections between these self-taught artists and contemporary work.
A genuine link between classical art and contemporary African art, the work of the artists of Le Hangar, which developed away from any Western influence, was not on the radar for collectors until the exhibition Beauté Congo at the Cartier Foundation in 2014-2015 revealed its modernity. Since then, this work has become highly prized by collectors.
« The artists of Le Hangar are storytellers who recount with great spontaneity and freedom the details of their day-to-day lives, the ceremonies, the fishing and hunting. The abundance of animals, fish and other themes naturally bring to mind fables that can be interpreted in many different ways. » Christophe Person, Director Contemporary African Art, Artcurial
« The modernity of these artists jumps out at us today. The themes and techniques are key to understanding the sources of inspiration for many contemporary artists. » Aude de Vaucresson, Specialist Post War & Contemporary Art, Artcurial Belgium
Le Hangar School
The School of Le Hangar was set up in the 1940s in Elisabethville, known today as Lubumbashi in the Democratic Republic of Congo, established by Pierre Romain Desfossés. At the start of the 1940s, RomainDesfossés, a former Breton officer in the French navy, travelled across Africa with Bela, from the Sara tribe, in search of somewhere to settle. An artist himself, and appreciative of the indigenous art in Brazzaville, he devoted himself to painting and writing, before moving to Elisabethville at the end of 1944, when the cultural life was flourishing. Involved in founding the African Union of Arts and Letters, with its objective to promote indigenous art, he then set up Le Hangar. This centre for the arts did not set out to teach its students about Western art, but rather to encourage them to experiment and develop their own paths. In line with their talents, these artists favoured painting, illustration and decorative arts. There was no school or teachers to hold these pupils back, who instead were encouraged to express their own vision of the African environment. From here, European institutions began to take an interest and certain artists from Le Hangar had work exhibited in Brussels, Paris, Rome, London, and later New York and South Africa. With themes all linked to the natural world, Bela, Mweze Kibwanga and Pililipi, each with their own vocabulary, depict scenes portraying hunting, fishing and ceremonies. Wild animals, fish, birds and hunters evolve like tales from the savannah.
En 1950, Mwenze Kibwanga est admis au Hangar, il y restera 4 ans. Son uvre se caractérise par son style unique et ses coups de pinceaux qui hachurent lesemble de la composition. Inspiré des tissus traditionnels, les arrières plans des scènes de chasse ou des cérémonies semblent vibrer, comme dans son huile sur carton sans titre, estimée entre 2 000 et 3 000 . Mwenze imprime du mouvement sur une perspective totalement plate.
Bela, originally from Chad and the Sara tribe, became the right-hand man for the French officer and artist Romain Desfossés in 1940. The first «disciple» of Desfossés, Bela was interested in the ocean floor and, very probably influenced by his protector, in hunting scenes, bush landscapes that had a touch of menace and human initiation dances on the moonlight. An outstanding colourist, he juggled bright and contrasting colours, often using unrealistic shades, such as depicting the bottom of the ocean in a sparkling yellow. His digital technique, without using outlines, give his compositions a sense of rhythm and tension, as can be seen in his paintings offered in the sale, such as Poissons (est: 5 000 - 8 000 ) and an untitled natural scene, estimated between 5 500 and 7 500 .