Viye Diba is well respected and recognized in his own country. He is a professor of art education, the president of the National Association of Plastic Artists and the winner of the Grand Prix at the important Biennial: Dak'Art '98. He is almost as well recognized on the African continent, having been invited to show at the Johannesburg Biennials. Outside of Africa, Viye Diba has had one man shows Germany, France, Belgium and Spain. Contemporary African Art Gallery represents him in America and has presented his work in four shows and placed his work in the permanent collections of five museums and with over a dozen private collectors.
El Anatsui is the best known contemporary African artist. Without exaggeration, his “fabrics” of formally used metal bottle labels have found a home in most museums in the world. The sheer beauty, scale and resourcefulness of the work (he works only with three label elements) has attracted world attention. Contemporary African Art Gallery co-hosted his first show in metal fabric in New York and has lent two of his works to the Museum for African art for its inaugural show and El’s first retrospective. That show also traveled to the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, the Denver Art Museum and the North Carolina Museum of Art.
Jean-Michel Basquiat met Ouattara in Paris and was immediately taken with the power of his work. With Basquiat's introductions and the strength of his own work, Ouattara established himself in New York, although he maintains ties to Paris and his native Ivory Coast. Ouattara has been the featured artist in the contemporary French art magazine Revue Noire. He is the only contemporary African artists to be shown twice at the Museum for African Art. Ouattara is in an exclusive club of only ten Africans who have exhibited at the Venice Biennale.
Occasionally an extraordinary work or an extraordinary artist causes us to modify our objective of showing established artists. When African American sculptor Melvin Edwards brought Khrispen Matekenya to my attention, I was skeptical about his young age and lack of experience. When I found the work "Male Torso," I knew that Mel was on to something. Khrispen's work is not without recognition. His work has been highly recommended in the large annual show, with an international jury, at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe.
Nnenna Okore is one of the gallery’s emerging artists and it must be added that she is quickly emerging. Nnenna comes with a pedigree of having studies under El Anatsui at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, for four years, thereafter managing his studio for another year. However, rather than follow in El’s very successful footsteps she has developed her own way of working with clay, paper and bark. Her exhibit at Contemporary African Art Gallery brought her the exposure that has allowed her to follow with five shows in the United Kingdom and other in places as diverse as Paris, India and Senegal. Back in New York she was also in the inaugural show at the Museum for Art and Design.
Fode Camara is, arguably, the most extraordinary colorist in Africa. While his colors are seductive, his message is serious and profound. He is one of the few artists I have found who has commented, in his work, on Goree Island; the Senegalese place from which most slaves were sent off to America. He has had many shows throughout Europe and was among the small groups of artists to be in the first contemporary show at the Museum for African Art in New York. This gallery has placed one of his major works in the permanent collection of the National Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian.
Tesfaye Tessema is a student of the father of Ethiopian contemporary art: Skunder Boghossian. Tesfaye studied under Skunder both at the School of Fine Art in Addis Ababa and at Howard University, where he got his MFA. Tesfaye has exhibited widely . Some New York venues have been the United Nations, the African American Institute, The Schomburg Center, 450 Broadway Gallery and Contemporary African Art Gallery. He has also shown at the Guggenheim Museum (Soho) and the Cochi Triennial International Print Show, Cochi, Japan.
Skunder Boghossian is arguably the father of Contemporary Ethiopian art. As a teen-ager, he was sent to Europe by the Emperor to study. He received his training at the National Fine Art School of Paris and the Grande-Chaumiere Academy. For most of his adult life he has been both an artist and a teacher, in both capacities strongly influencing a generation of younger artists. His international exhibits are too numerous to mention. Among his many collectors are Musee d'Art Modem, Paris, The Museum of Modem Art, The National Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian, the North Carolina Museum of Art and the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
Rosemary Karuga was born in Kenya. She studied at the School of Fine Arts, Makerere University, in Uganda. Rosemary studied Byzantine art and was intrigued by mosaics; however, she found that the materials were very difficult to obtain and ventured that the same type of work could be done with pieces of paper. This was the beginning of her collage work. In 1989 Rosemary Karuga was selected for a Studio Museum in Harlem show as one of only nine contemporary artists chosen from the entire African continent. Since that time she has been in international group shows and in 1994 had a solo show at Contemporary African Art Gallery.