Art World City: The Creative Economy of Artists and Urban Life in Dakar

Art World City: The Creative Economy of Artists and Urban Life in Dakar

Art World City: The Creative Economy of Artists and Urban Life in Dakar

Art World City: The Creative Economy of Artists and Urban Life in Dakar

Synopsis

Art World City focuses on contemporary art and artists in the city of Dakar, a famously thriving art metropolis in the West African nation of Senegal. Joanna Grabski illuminates how artists earn their livelihoods from the city's resources, possibilities, and connections. She examines how and why they produce and exhibit their work and how they make an art scene and transact with art world mediators such as curators, journalists, critics, art lovers, and collectors from near and far. Grabski shows that Dakar-based artists participate in a platform that has a global reach. They extend Dakar's creative economy and the city's urban vibe into an "art world city."

Excerpt

Within a few months of arriving for my first stay in Dakar in 1998, I had amassed an untidy stack of invitation cards to exhibition openings and other art events in various neighborhoods across the city. When I asked my new colleague Abdoulaye about these artistic events, he assured me that all of this was standard fare. “C’est normal,” he told me in a tone of casual elegance. “This is animation artistique in Dakar.” My response vacillated between intrigue and bewilderment. Animation artistique? Although it was not entirely clear to me at that moment, his pithy explanation offered something of a revelation. These events were more than sites for artists to show their work or for a researcher to participate in her project. They were gathering sites where the city’s art scene—artists, journalists, critics, animateurs d’art, diplomats, and collectors—made itself visible.

My bewilderment was due mostly to the large number of artists and the impressive range of events. Based on what I had read in preparation for this trip, I had not expected this degree of activity. My preliminary research had impressed on me that I should expect little to no infrastructure for the arts because former president Léopold Sédar Senghor’s famously robust post-independence era subvention had come to an end when he left office in 1980. I assumed I would meet artists who were, at best, struggling to make, exhibit, and sell their art. I certain-

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