In response to contemporary social debates, the artists create and invite us to reflect on new ideas. Through their eyes, new perspectives on the world are opening up to us.
The history of modern and contemporary art, long focused on the West and the work of white artists, has been plagued for some years by an identity crisis. In the 21st century, several major challenges affect museums. One of these is the need to decentralise the narrative and offer a more inclusive exhibition programme. This is what we are trying to do at the MBAL. After having offered an all-female programme, we are continuing our artistic exploration of the gender issue by exhibiting contemporary works that challenge Western ethnocentrism.
Through four exhibitions, the MBAL examines the themes of the fluidity of bodies, identities and nature by offering its spaces to ECAL students (ground floor), to photographers Erwan Frotin (2nd floor) and Namsa Leuba (3rd floor) as well as to the artists of the exhibition The New Black Vanguard (1st and 2nd floors). The programme brings together a range of outstanding artists from Switzerland, the United States, South Africa, Nigeria and Ethiopia. Conceived by the curator Antwaun Sargent and implemented by the Aperture Foundation in New York, The New Black Vanguard is an extraordinary project. This exhibition shows that it is essential to report on the emancipation of black artists. With The New Black Vanguard, we are bringing together works by black artists working in very different contexts, from Johannesburg to New York, Lagos to London, and sometimes as activists. The exhibition places the human being at the centre of its subject matter and thwarts the stereotypes that black people have long been subjected to. Beauty does not come down to a single universal standard, as the artist Nadine Ijewere reminds us. Like those of Erwan Frotin or Namsa Leuba, most of the images in The New Black Vanguard were published in fashion magazines or trend-setting magazines, which were the first to show other types of representations. Some of the artists released their images on social networks only without waiting for professional validation. While the photographs produced for the fashion world are often alienating in the way they represent bodies, these creators show us that it is possible to go further, to go beyond Eurocentrism by showing more diversity and redefining the canons of beauty.
The generation of artists exhibited at the MBAL is the sounding board for these agents of change who are shaking up contemporary codes. Beyond their skin colors, we have to remember their belonging to a same era and their will to defend a common cause : to apprehend the world in its multiplicity and to enrich the imaginary, despite the crises that our societies are going through. Artists have always played a key role in creating a desirable future. Art is a vehicle for social and political change. By addressing issues of identity, gender and race head-on, the works presented at the MBAL are a plea for openness to the other and an invitation to transcend stereotypes.