The CHRISTOPHE PERSON gallery presents an exhibition highlighting two historical Senegalese artists, Amadou Seck and Philippe Sène, who are representative of the School of Dakar. This cultural and artistic movement was born in the years 1960-1970 under the impulse of Léopold Sédar Senghor, poet and president of Senegal. Currently, part of the collection of this movement is on display at the Musée du Quai Branly Jacques Chirac.
Thanks to Senghor’s vision, Senegal quickly acquired a significant artistic and cultural influence from the first days of its independence in 1960. Senghor’s cultural policy was directed towards local production by the Senegalese School of Arts and the international exhibition of these works under the aegis of Négritude, a cultural and intellectual movement that promoted African culture. To encourage this artistic production, a significant part of the state budget was dedicated to culture.
The School of Arts of Senegal, created in 1960, was composed of two sections. The first, the plastic arts section, offered classical instruction in drawing, anatomy, perspective and color. The second, the section of Negro plastic research, had for objective the artistic research without the teaching of the Western codes. This allowed for the development of a new and distinct art style: modern Senegalese art.
Artists were encouraged to visit museums, not to copy the masks, but to immerse themselves in them and create an individual work.
The productions of the Dakar School are characterized by a strong interest in abstraction, stylized and decorative forms, and ornamental motifs. African traditions, masks and sculptures are reinterpreted in original ways to create “African” forms and motifs. Contrary to Western production, one finds neither still lifes, nor portraits, nor landscapes in these productions.
The School of Dakar and the government disseminated the artists’ thinking through several exhibitions, notably the first Festival of Black Arts in 1966, followed by traveling exhibitions in Europe, the United States and South America. In 1974, the exhibition “Art sénégalais d’aujourd’hui” was held at the Grand Palais in Paris, synthesizing the country’s independence and Senghor’s efforts to promote the arts.
In February 2023, the exhibition “Senghor and the Arts” will open at the Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac in Paris, focusing on the work of the poet-president and the generation of artists he helped emerge. In 2024, the reopening of the Grand Palais with “Dakar-Paris 1966” will mark the anniversary, the ambition and the vision of the 1974 exhibition.
Philippe Sène: Painter of the millenary Serer tradition
Born in 1945 in Diouroup, in the Sine Saloum region, Philippe Sène paints the elements of a thousand-year-old tradition transmitted by word and lived daily by a few last initiates. The Serer have a harmonious vision of the universe, which is composed of different worlds interacting for the preservation of life. In his compositions, Sène strives to restore the primary nature of the relationships between beings and things by using a subtle composition of forms and colors. The fluidity of the compositions, due to the trace of elegant arabesques, gives rhythm and movement to each work. In the Serer tradition, dance and rhythm bring man closer to the knowledge of the sacred and the transcendent.
On the one hand, the skilful interweaving of forms gives rhythm to the work, on the other hand the colors bring balance and meaning. The colors used, such as brown, green or blue, have a particular meaning and are chosen according to their relationship with the Serer tradition. The gradations are rare and the effects of matter are little used. Sène’s color thus finds its natural place. While evolving his technique and style, Sène has never strayed from the representation of the Serer oral traditions. Each creation marks a stage in the evolution of the painter and constitutes a situation reported by the tradition.
Amadou SECK: The artist who reinvented the poetics of African masks
Born in Dakar, Amadou SECK comes from a family of Wolof gardeners settled for generations in the Cape Verde peninsula. Since his youth, he has been drawing stylized portraits on the walls of his neighborhood that he calls “deformed portraits”. With the acquisition of his first notebooks, he immediately filled his pages with sketches and multiple characters. While still in high school, he decided to devote himself exclusively to painting, despite the reluctance of his family. Refusing to conform to established conventions, he joined Pierre Lods’ National School of Arts in Dakar in 1965.
From 1965 to 1970, Amadou Seck explored his creativity in a climate of great freedom, relying on the references, subjects and themes of the national and African heritage. He develops his personal style, acquires techniques and refines his academic training.
The poetics of masks is one of the artistic developments of Amadou Seck. He is inspired by the implicit grammar of the forms of Baga, Dogon, Senufo, Ashanti masks… to translate irony, joy, superstition, fantasy or rhythm, and give life to all the plastic forms of African masks.