Serge Attukwei Clottey has been invited to cover the façade of the Fundació Antoni Tàpies
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Serge Attukwei Clottey has been invited to cover the façade of the Fundació Antoni Tàpies
Museu Tąpies’ Faēade, intervened by the artist Serge Attukwei Clottey, with the installation “Afterlife Voyage”, of the project “Beyond the Skin”, Barcelona, Catalonia, 2024 © Museu Tąpies. Photography: Eva Carasol, 2024.

BARCELONA.- The Museu Tąpies presents the project Beyond the Skin, by Ghanaian artist Serge Attukwei Clottey, a reflection on the environmental crisis, migrations and the global economic system.

Through his installations, sculptures and actions, Clottey invites us to reflect collectively and transversally about the environment and the global economy, marked by inequalities and contradictions, and the migrations that result from these. The artist’s first project in Spain features an installation that covers the front of the museum until December, as well as a public programme involving dialogue and collaboration with different communities living in Barcelona.

The project Beyond the Skin springs from the work of Serge Attukwei Clottey (b. Ghana, 1985) on what the artist calls afrogallonism, a concept that confronts global material culture by cutting, drilling, stitching and melting found materials. The mass of yellow plastic gallon containers in Africa, not necessarily manufactured there, makes visible not only its geopolitical history but also its neocolonial present. In Clottey’s work, re-using parts of these containers serves as a system of redistribution and as a vehicle for reflection on the economic and migratory realities of Africa. This idea sets out from the possibility of re-using these materials as the starting point for an ecosystem in which they preserve a memory while at the same time rewriting or re-weaving it.

The artist explains that every gallon container has a complex origin story. These Kufuor gallons take their name from ex-president of Ghana John Agyekum Kufuor. They became symbolically infamous when the country was suffering from serious shortages in the years following 2000. Originally used as cooking oil containers and then re-used to store water or fuel, they represent a conscious effort to turn plastic waste into art.

With these yellow containers Clottey creates tapestries showing his concern for the culture and identity of the city of his birth, Accra, capital of Ghana, where he found the raw material for his work. The artist works though installation, performance, photography, painting and sculpture to explore personal and political narratives rooted in the histories of trade and migration.

The Museu Tąpies has invited Clottey to cover the front of its Art Nouveau building (designed by Lluķs Domčnech i Montaner) with a second skin, made up of pieces of waste material. The result covers 123 m2 of the front of the museum, while leaving some of its architectural features visible in order to dialogue with them. As the artist puts it, the installation explores the rich tapestry of his family heritage, going back to his ancestors’ migration from Jamestown to Labadi, making this work a proclamation both personal and political. This work, imbued with a combination of the complex impacts and influences of globalisation, as well as personal family narratives and universal experiences of migration, settlement and displacement, all intricately interwoven, also aims to connect with local criticism of the system. The work travels the world to capture the public’s attention, boosting its resonance and its impact.

The materials used to cover the front of the museum are part of the original installation presented for the first time by the artist in Ghana, and used for his installation at the Venice Biennale of Architecture in 2023. After being cleaned, these pieces have taken on a new form for the front of the museum in an intensive three-week workshop shared by the artist and his team with participants from einaidea Fundació Eina’s research and cultural programming platform and people linked to the Afro-descended community of Periferia Cimarronas. All of them worked together to construct the piece, a modular recycled plastic object conceived especially for the Museu Tąpies.

Beyond the Skin is a reflection on ecologism, the environment and the migrations imposed by the global economic system, marked by inequalities and contradictions. It includes an open, educational public programme run with various communities living in Barcelona and in a range of venues, making it possible to generate a system of alliances with different institutions and organisations in the city such as the Teatre Nacional de Catalunya, the Grec festival, the Periferia Cimarronas venue and einaidea, Fundació Eina’s research and cultural programming platform, the Filmoteca de Catalunya and the Institut Franēais de Barcelone, among others.

Imma Prieto, director of the museum and curator of the project, points out, ‘One of the aims is to open up a space for reflection based on architecture, using the structure we inhabit. Thinking of it as a porous skin that brings us closer to stories from the past, to a collective memory that needs to breathe. In turn, the fact that it inhabits the public space, i.e. the work can be seen from the street, opens us up to other fundamental questions from a democratic point of view. Overall, the project deals with the concept of responsibility, from both environmental and colonial standpoints. Here we do not point the finger at anyone, here we are all freed. Recognition on a basis of humility and honesty liberates and unites.’

She also states, ‘This project was also run together with great local historians, who will take part in the seminar to be held in autumn and who have helped to shed light on some historic silences, a question that falls within the responsibility of museums and any institution devoted to knowledge.’

Serge Attukwei Clottey (b. Accra, Ghana, 1985)

He studied at the Ghanatta College of Art and Design in Accra and at the Escola Guignard in Belo Horizonte (Brazil). Awarded an honorary doctorate in Art by the University of Brighton in 2019. In the course of his prolific career he has had individual exhibitions in Ghana, the Arab Emirates, the USA, the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, Norway and Switzerland. He has also taken part in collective exhibitions around the world. Clottey has exhibited at art fairs including 1:54 New York and Miami Art Week (USA), 1:54 London and Brighton Festival (United Kingdom) and the Dakar Biennial (Senegal).

Clottey has earned residencies at DAAD Berlin, at the Royal Museums Green- wich in the United Kingdom and at the Kitakyushu Center for Contemporary Art (Japan). He has also won scholarships from the Dutch ministry of culture and the University of Maastricht (Netherlands).

Clottey’s work forms part of public collection including the World Bank Collection and the Tucson Museum of Art (USA), the Museum of Contemporary African Art in Morocco and the Kunstmuseum Arnhem (Netherlands).

Clottey lives between Labadi (near Accra, the capital of Ghana) and Los Angeles, and is the founder of an organisation that sets out to change society through art.

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