Galerie Nathalie Obadia is delighted to present its fourth exhibition devoted to Seydou Keïta (c. 1921-2001), who is considered to be one of West Africa’s most influential photographers. This exhibition brings together an exhaustive selection of works of this self-taught artist, whose rise to fame started off in a small studio in Bamako (Mali), which at the time was the capital of former French Sudan. The inventiveness of the mise en scene, the modernity of the photographs and the fresh approach to the subjects photographed, made Keïta a celebrity in his own country: thousands of Malians and travelers from West Africa came to have their photographs taken by Seydou Keïta between 1948 and 1962. Keïta retired in 1977 after having been the official photographer of Mali, which became independent in 1960. These photographs are an important record of Malian society’s evolution at the end of the colonial period. In other times, the subjects would have considered as anthropological exhibits, but here they have regained their identities, taking their rightful place at the heart of each work. These photographs have become archival documents and exceptional documentary sources concerning a period that marked a turning point in West African history. In the 1950s, one could often hear in Bamako “anyone who has not been photographed by Seydou Keïta, has never had a photo taken”. Yet, outside Sub-Saharan Africa, his work was little known in the West until 1991. It was that year, in New York on the occasion of the exhibition Africa Explores: Twentieth Century African Art, that André Magnin and the great collector of African art Jean Pigozzi discovered uncredited photographs of striking beauty. On behalf of the collector, André Magnin set out for Bamako where he finally met Seydou Keïta. He returned with several negatives of photographs shot by the artist, which immortalized a wide range of social classes from the population of Bamako. For the first time outside their country of origin, around forty of these photographs were exhibited at the Cartier Foundation in 1994. This personal exhibition was a huge success: more than 2000 visitors came on the opening day, celebrating a body of work that would soon gain international recognition. No-one could have predicted that Seydou Keïta would become a photographer: as a child, he had started working with his father as acarpenter. His interest in photography began by chance in his teens, when his uncle gave him a Kodak Brownie with a flash. With no
formal tuition, he started practicing by taking photographs of his family and friends and then passers-by in the street, experimenting fervently with the effects of natural light on his compositions. He then began to specialize in commissioned portraits and opened his own studio in 1948. He rapidly gained both fame and new clients. Alone or in groups, with friends or family, they began to queue up outside his studio, enchanted by the postcard-sized, stamped images they could send to their loved ones. Seydou Keïta was capable of producing up to 40 portraits a day, proudly exclaiming: “the whole Bamako has been to my studio to be photographed: civil servants, shopkeepers, politicians…” His studio was the place to go to be photographed, sometimes in celebration of a major event in the lives of his subjects, who were often posing in front of the lens for the very first time. But what were people really seeking when they had themselves photographed by Seydou Keïta? Why were they so eager? Why did long queues form daily behind the central prison in Bamako-Coura (“New Bamako”) district? It is enough to simply look at his photographs to appreciate effect of natural light falling on the clasped or relaxed hands of his subjects; to let one’s eye explore the chiaroscuro on these oblique faces, whose gaze matches our own or turns away slightly with great elegance. In his quest for beauty or even perfection, Seydou Keïta seeks the most advantageous posture, and every detail had its own importance. His clients could choose from numerous accessories such as Vespa scooters, bicycles, transistor radios, jewelry and African
Exhibition from May 05 to July 15, 2023.
Since the opening of the first gallery in Paris in 1993, followed by the one in Brussels in 2008 and a second space in Paris in 2013, Nathalie Obadia has exhibited emerging and recognized artists of the international contemporary art scene. In the fall of 2021, Galerie Nathalie Obadia has opened a new space in the Matignon-Saint-Honoré district in Paris. For many years, the gallery has also participated in the rediscovery of deceased artists like Martin Barré, Josep Grau-Garriga, and Seydou Keita.
The mission of the gallery is also to promote artists to institutions in France and abroad.
Galerie Nathalie Obadia participates in international art fairs : Art Basel, Art Basel Hong Kong, Art Basel Miami, Armory Show, Paris Photo, Art Genève, Art Dubai, Art Brussels, TEFAF among others.
Brook Andrew, Edgar Arceneaux, Martin Barré, Nú Barreto, Valérie Belin, Carole Benzaken, Guillaume Bresson, Rosson Crow, Luc Delahaye, Patrick Faigenbaum, Roland Flexner, Roger-Edgar Gillet, Josep Grau-Garriga, Laura Henno, Fabrice Hyber, Shirley Jaffe Estate, Hoda Kashiha, Seydou Keïta, Sophie Kuijken, Robert Kushner, Guillaume Leblon, Eugène Leroy, Lu Chao, Benoît Maire, Rodrigo Matheus, Meuser, Youssef Nabil, Frank Nitsche, Manuel Ocampo, Shahpour Pouyan, Laure Prouvost, Jorge Queiroz, Fiona Rae, David Reed, Antoine Renard, Sarkis, Andres Serrano, Jessica Stockholder, Mickalene Thomas, Nicola Tyson, Joris Van de Moortel, Agnès Varda, Wang Keping, Brenna Youngblood, Ni Youyu, Jérôme Zonder