Jean Pigozzi, who began collecting African art in 1989 and has since amassed one of the world’s largest privately held collections of contemporary art from the continent, has given 45 works to the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
The acquisition includes sculptures by Romuald Hazoumè and Bodys Isek Kingelez, paintings by Moké and Cheri Samba, and photographs by Seydou Keïta, Ambroise Ngaimoko/Studio 3Z, and Jean Depara. Other highlights are drawings by Gedewon and Abu Bakarr Mansaray, and a pictographic alphabet of 449 syllables by Frédéric Bruly Bouabré.
Sarah Suzuki, curator of drawings and prints at MoMA, collaborated with Pigozzi in organizing the museum’s 2018 presentation of sculptures by Kingelez, and she told ARTnews that one of her hopes at the time of the show was to bring the artist’s work into the permanent collection.
“With this gift, we’re able to fulfill that ambition,” Suzuki said, adding that the acquisition will position the museum, which reopens to the public on October 21, following renovation and expansion work, as an “institutional leader” in the field of African contemporary art.
“One of the commitments we made to our public and ourselves is to think differently and work differently with our collection—to have a collection that is constantly in motion and elevates voices that have been pushed to the margins,” Suzuki said. “This gift from [Jean Pigozzi] allows us in this incredible moment to dive into this material and put it in context with other things in our collection galleries, which is really exciting.”
Glenn Lowry, the museum’s director, said in a release that Pigozzi’s gift will have “a transformative effect on MoMA’s collection and exhibition program, and will play an important role in the museum’s reimagined collection installation.”
Pigozzi said in a statement, “I hope that this donation will help open the eyes of millions of art lovers from all over the world to the amazing, and not yet well-enough known, art from the oldest—and now the youngest—continent on our planet.”