Frédéric Bruly Bouabré

World Unbound

Mar 13–Aug 13, 2022

MoMA

Frédéric Bruly Bouabré. « GBRÉ=GBLÉ » N° 118 from Alphabet Bété. 1991. Colored pencil, pencil, and ballpoint pen on board, 3 7/8 × 5 7/8" (9.8 × 14.9 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. The Jean Pigozzi Collection of African Art
  • MoMA, Floor 3, 3 South The Edward Steichen Galleries

The work of the Ivorian artist Frédéric Bruly Bouabré had a single objective: to record and transmit information about the known universe. Devoting his life to a quest for knowledge, Bouabré captured and codified subjects from a range of sources, including cultural traditions, folklore, religious and spiritual belief systems, philosophy, and popular culture. “I do not work from my imagination," he once said. “I observe, and what I see delights me.”

The first survey of Bouabré’s work, and the first exhibition at MoMA devoted to an Ivorian artist, Frédéric Bruly Bouabré: World Unbound spans the artist’s immense production from the 1970s until his death in 2014. A highlight of the exhibition is the Alphabet Bété—Bouabré’s invention of the first writing system for the Bété people, an ethnic group in present-day Côte d’Ivoire to which the artist belonged. Also on view are hundreds of postcard-size illustrations that he drew on cardboard packages of hair products he salvaged from his neighborhood in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire’s economic capital. Tracing the arc of Bouabré’s inventiveness—from the creation of his first writings and drawings focused on the the culture of the Bété, to scenes from everyday life exploring broader themes of democracy, women’s rights, and current affairs—the exhibition celebrates his commitment to collecting, preserving, and sharing knowledge as a way of understanding the world around us.

Organized by Ugochukwu-Smooth C. Nzewi, The Steven and Lisa Tananbaum Curator, with Erica DiBenedetto, Curatorial Assistant, and with support from Damasia Lacroze, Department Assistant, Department of Painting and Sculpture.

  • This exhibition is part of Midtown is modern this summer.
  • Major support for the exhibition is provided by The International Council of The Museum of Modern Art and by Jack Shear through The International Council of The Museum of Modern Art.

    Additional funding is provided by Martha H. Hale in honor of Ugochukwu-Smooth C. Nzewi.

    Leadership contributions to the Annual Exhibition Fund, in support of the Museum’s collection and collection exhibitions, are generously provided by Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, Jerry I. Speyer and Katherine G. Farley, the Sandra and Tony Tamer Exhibition Fund, The Contemporary Arts Council of The Museum of Modern Art, Eva and Glenn Dubin, the Kate W. Cassidy Foundation, Alice and Tom Tisch, Mimi Haas, the Noel and Harriette Levine Endowment, The David Rockefeller Council, the William Randolph Hearst Endowment Fund, the Marella and Giovanni Agnelli Fund for Exhibitions, Anne Dias, Kathy and Richard S. Fuld, Jr., Kenneth C. Griffin, The International Council of The Museum of Modern Art, Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis, and Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder.

    Major contributions to the Annual Exhibition Fund are provided by The Junior Associates of The Museum of Modern Art, Emily Rauh Pulitzer, Brett and Daniel Sundheim, Karen and Gary Winnick, and Anna Marie and Robert F. Shapiro.

    Special thanks to Jean Pigozzi and The Jean Pigozzi Collection of African Art.

    Publication

    • Frédéric Bruly Bouabré: World Unbound Exhibition catalogue, Hardcover, 96 pages

    Artists

    Installation images

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