Tate Modern

Meschac Gaba

Blavatnik Building Level 3

Meschac Gaba Architecture Room From Museum of Contemporary African Art 1997-2002
© Tate Photography Tate 2016

Creating spaces which invite participation, and challenge preconceptions of African art

Visiting European museums in the late 1990s, Beninese artist Meschac Gaba couldn’t imagine how the art he wanted to create could be integrated into them. The Museum of Contemporary African Art 1997–2002 is his response.

The work is an immersive twelve-room installation – two sections of which are displayed here. Gaba creates new spaces for sociability, study and play, in which the boundaries between everyday life and art, and observation and participation are blurred.

Meschac Gaba, ‘Architecture Room From Museum of Contemporary African Art’ 1997–2002
Meschac Gaba
Architecture Room From Museum of Contemporary African Art 1997–2002
Tate
© Meschac Gaba

The Draft Room introduces many of the conceptual concerns of the project, particularly questions of value. For Gaba, food embodies the imbalances between production and consumption in the world today. Money is another prominent element, including dots cut from decommissioned banknotes and cylinders of compressed shredded currency. In this context, money symbolises the underlying structures that mediate our relationships with each other and with the environment in which we live.

In the Architecture Room visitors are encouraged to propose their own architectural structures for Gaba’s Museum using the building blocks on the blue carpet. The models are constantly changing, being redesigned and rebuilt. Likewise, the Museum of Contemporary African Art has temporarily occupied many institutions around the world. The ladder was empty when this room was first exhibited. The colourful treads were added each time an organisation hosted the project until 2002 when the Museum of Contemporary African Art was officially completed and the ladder was full.

Curated by Kerryn Greenberg.

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Tate Modern
Bankside
London SE1 9TG
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Video

TateShots: Meschac Gaba

Take a tour around the streets of Meshac Gaba’s home town of Cotonou, Benin, as he considers his working space ...