From September 18 to November 28, 2020, the Cécile Fakhoury gallery in Abidjan hosts the first solo exhibition of Roméo Mivekanmin in Africa. Art lovers and enthusiasts will be able to discover a dozen large-format works by the Beninese painter and architect, never before exhibited on the African continent.

Black history, according to Roméo

Roméo Mivekannin’s work is inspired by photographic archives and paintings emblematic of Western art, such as Slave for Sale by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1873), Olympia by Edouard Manet (1863), as well as the first photographic portraits of the 19th century. With black acrylic and canvases repeatedly tinted with an elixir of which he is the only one to have the secret, the artist questions the representations of blacks on these canvases depicting colonization and slavery. He thus establishes a bridge between past and contemporary history in order to relate through his works a personal vision of popular narratives.

Roméo Mivekannin, Madeleine, after M.-G. Benoist, 2019
Acrylic, elixir bath on free canvas, 261 x 258 cm
Roméo Mivekannin
Slave for sale, after J.-L. Gérôme, 2019
Acrylic, elixir bath on free canvas
258 x 253 cm

But it goes even further. Imposing himself as an observer as much as an actor, Roméo Mivekanmin offers himself a place in this somewhat dark period by substituting the portraits of the original black characters with his own. Whether in the foreground or in the background, the artist thus affirms his presence in the story. The approach? “To take myself as a subject, to take my own body as a subject,” he says.

Who is Roméo Mivekanmin?

Beninese, Roméo Mivekanmin was born in 1986 in Bouaké, Ivory Coast. After his primary and secondary studies, he immigrated to France to initially follow a training in cabinet making. He then studied architecture at the École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture in Toulouse. During his university training, he develops his talents in sculpture and painting, and decides, upon graduation, to devote himself fully to his activity as a visual artist.

Roméo Mivekanmin’s career in the West has allowed him to develop a certain plurality in his artistic approach. One thus finds in his works, a mixture of contemporary art and voodoo inspiration, an animist religion whose cradle is in Benin. The artist mainly paints on worn sheets previously immersed in ritual solutions. His works have been selected for the Dakar Biennale in 2020. The artist has also participated in many group exhibitions in France.

The solo exhibition of Roméo Mivekanmin is open from Tuesday to Saturday, between 10 am and 7 pm, in the spaces of the Cécile Fakhoury gallery in Abidjan.


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