For the sale taking place on 24 March, Artcurial will present an exhibition of the “Artists of Le Hangar” from 18 to 22 March 2021. These artists worked in the studio of Pierre Romain-Desfossés in the mid 20th century in Elisabethville (today known as Lubumbashi in the Democratic Republic of Congo).
Artcurial will present some thirty works by the masters of Congolese modern art, including Mode Muntu, Bela Sara, Pilipili, Mwenze Kibwanga and Kabinda. The exhibition of museum quality, with works coming principally from Belgian collections, reveals the connections between these self-taught artists and contemporary work. A genuine link between classical art and contemporary African art, the work of the artists of Le Hangar, which developed away from any Western influence, was not on the radar for collectors until the exhibition Beauté Congo at the Cartier Foundation in 2014-2015 revealed its modernity. Since then, this work has become highly prized by collectors.
The School of Le Hangar was set up in the 1940s in Elisabethville, known today as Lubumbashi in the Democratic Republic of Congo, established by Pierre Romain-Desfossés. At the start of the 1940s, Romain-Desfossés, a former Breton officer in the French navy, travelled across Africa with Bela, from the Sara tribe, in search of somewhere to settle. An artist himself, and appreciative of the indigenous art in Brazzaville, he devoted himself to painting and writing, before moving to Elisabethville at the end of 1944, when the cultural scene was flourishing. Involved in founding the African Union of Arts and Letters, with its objective to promote indigenous art, he then set up Le Hangar. This centre for the arts did not set out to teach its students about Western art, but rather to encourage them to experiment and develop their own paths. In line with their talents, these artists favoured painting, illustration and decorative arts. There was no ‘school’ or teachers to hold these pupils back, who instead were encouraged to express their own vision of the African environment. From here, European institutions began to take an interest and certain artists from Le Hangar had work exhibited in Brussels, Paris, Rome, London, and later New York and South Africa. With themes all linked to the natural world, Bela, Mweze Kibwanga and Pililipi, each with their own vocabulary, depict scenes portraying hunting, fishing and ceremonies. Wild animals, fish, birds and hunters evolve like tales from the savannah.