24th March 2020

S03 E01 / Talk: ‘Museums in the 21st Century’ at Cape Town Art Fair

Art conversations in South Africa

This episode is from a talk that I recorded at this year’s Investec Cape Town Art Fair, as part of their talks program curated by  Tumelo Mosaka. Thanks so much to the organizers of the fair for allowing me to record this session and publish it on the Unframed platform. Enjoy this talk entitled ‘Museums in the 21st Century’.

Traditionally art museums have functioned as a sanctuary, a place for meditation whilst also offering education. They have also been a cultural resource contributing to the economic engine that has strengthened local businesses through cultural tourism. In recent years, this model of museums as a shrine to history has been rethought particularly with an interest to dramatically increase audiences of every kind, whilst also recognizing the role technology plays in everyday lives. It is said that museums have gone from, “being about something to being for somebody”. Such a shift in perspective has raised many questions about what was and could be a museum in the 21stcentury. This panel will explore the various ways museums respond to pressures and challenges of the coming decade.

MODERATOR: Tumelo Mosaka (Curator, New York)

Adriana Rispoili  (Independent Curator, Italy)
Koyo Kouoh (Dir. Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town)
Sonia Lawson (Dir. Palais de Lomé, Lomé)
Nana Oforiatta-Ayim (Founder and director of ANO Institute of Contemporary Arts, Accra)


Tumelo Mosaka is an independent curator who has worked within and outside museums exploring global transnational artistic practices especially from Africa, the Caribbean and North America. He has curated numerous exhibitions including, Turning Tide, at the Mémorial ACTe Museum, Guadeloupe (2017), Andrew Lyght: Full Circle, Dorsky Art Museum, New York (2016), Poetic Relations, Perez Art Museum, Miami (2015), and Otherwise Black at the 1 edition International Biennale of Africa (2016-19). Previously he held positions at the Krannert Art Museum (KAM) in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois where he curated several exhibitions including: Blind Field (2013), OPENSTUDIO (2011), and MAKEBA! (2011). Prior to joining KAM, Mosaka was the Associate Curator of Exhibitions at the Brooklyn Museum, NY where he curated Infinite Islands: Contemporary Caribbean Art (2007) and Passing/Posing: Kehinde Wiley (2004) among others. Mosaka was born in Johannesburg and resides in New York City.

Adriana Rispoli is an independent curator and art historian from Naples, Italy whose interest lies in activating public spaces though installation, video art and performance. She is the curator at Quartiere Intelligente, a non-profit association and urban regeneration space in the historical center of Naples where she conceived Q.I. Vedo, a video art format in which national and international artists interpret the relationship between man, nature and culture. She has curated several projects in unconventional spaces with the aim of introducing contemporary art to broader public. Rispoli is the founder of the annual project Skins Taste in Rome where façades of ex factories are transformed. As an independent curator, Rispoli has worked with several major institutions and is also the contributing editor of Artforum.

Koyo Kouoh is the Executive Director & Chief Curator at The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA). Prior to the Zeitz MOCAA appointment, Koyo was the founding Artistic Director of RAW Material Company. A centre for art, knowledge and society in Dakar since 2008. A centre for critical education, an art exhibition space and home to a creative residency programme. In her independent curatorial practice, she has organised several exhibitions such as Body Talk: Feminism, Sexuality and the Body in the Works of Six African Women Artists, first shown at Wiels in Brussels in 2015 and Still (the) Barbarians, 37th EVA International, the Irish Biennal in Limerick in 2016. She was the initiator of the research project Saving Bruce Lee: African and Arab Cinema in the era of Soviet Cultural Diplomacy, co-curated with Rasha Salti at Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow and Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin, 2015-2018. Active in the critical field of the arts community in a Pan-African and international scope, Kouoh has a list of publications under her name. She has served as Curator of the Educational and Artistic Program of 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair for eight consecutive editions in London and New York, as well as on the curatorial teams for Documenta 12 and 13.

Sonia Lawson is the Director of the recently inaugurated Palais de Lomé in Togo. In 2012 she was entrusted with the conception, management, design and oversight of the transformation of the former Governor’s Palace into a center for art and culture after it lay abandoned for 20 years. The Palais de Lomé, an ambitious renovation, cultural and environmental project, funded by the Togolese government, opened its doors to the public in 2019. She also organized in 2017 and 2019 exhibitions of design and crafts from Togo at Révélations Biennale des Métiers d’art, the international fine craft and creation biennial at the Grand Palais in Paris. Previously she worked in Europe at large multinational consumer goods corporations, and studied at Sciences Po Paris and HEC Paris School of Management.

Nana Oforiatta Ayim is a writer, filmmaker and art historian. She studied Russian and Politics and worked for the Eastern European section of the Department of Political Affairs of United Nations in New York. She then went on to do a Masters in African Art History. She is a founder of the ANO Institute of Arts and Knowledge through which she has pioneered such projects as The Mobile Museum and The Pan-African Cultural Encyclopedia; curating exhibitions such as Ghana’s first pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2019; and speaking globally on cultural narratives and institution-building in countries like Ghana, Senegal, the UK, US, Germany, Holland, Denmark, France and Brazil. She has made several films, a cross of fiction, travel essay, and documentary that have been shown at museums like The New Museum, Tate Modern, and LACMA. She has written for publications like frieze, Art News, African Metropolitan Architecture; and her first novel, The God Child, was published by Bloomsbury Publishing in 2019. She has been appointed to the Advisory Council of Oxford University from January 2020, will be a MOMA Curatorial Leadership Fellow from March 2020, and a Principal Investigator for the Action for African Cultural Restitution from April 2020.

(text courtesy of Investec Cape Town Art Fair)

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