French radio's success in London, an interview with exiled Moroccan journalist Aboubakr Jamai and auction frenzy in China
Over 30 years, Anne and Jacques Kerchache amassed possibly the world’s greatest collection of West African voodoo art: sculptures made from wood, shells and animal skulls for tribal rituals, collected on travels through Benin, Nigeria and Togo. Jacques Kerchache became a key art adviser to Jacques Chirac and, to commemorate the 10th anniversary of his death, his wife Anne (now Mrs Kamal Douaoui) is exhibiting a selection of the collection at the Fondation Cartier.
What fascinated Jacques about voodoo art?
He liked voodoo because it was unknown and not present in the great galleries. It will nourish your soul. Don’t leave with the idea, which is in the European mindset, that voodoo is bad.
Was it always the intention to display the collection in a contemporary art centre like the Fondation Cartier in Paris?
I wanted it to be neither ethnographic nor exotic. Jacques promised Alain Dominique Perrain [president of the museum] 15 years ago that the exhibition would take place here. Jacques wanted to share this collection with the greatest number of people possible and to show there are Picassos, da Vincis, Matisses and Mirós in voodoo culture too.
Does the collection continue to grow?
No, not at all. We already have all the voodoo treasures – the shamans gave them to us.
What next for the collection?
I might give it to a museum. Or I’ll give it to friends, as I’ve already done, to bring them happiness. The shamans will tell me.
Vodun: African Voodoo, until 25 September, Fondation Cartier, 261 boulevard Raspail, Paris
In 2010, China vaulted ahead of the US and the UK to become the world’s largest auction marketplace for fine art: total revenues in China reached €2bn, according to Artprice. Four Chinese names have climbed onto the top 10 list of artists rated by annual auction revenue, including Qi Baishi, a 20th-century painter who occupies second position between Picasso and Warhol, with 2010 revenues of €237m.
Collectors are flocking to Chinese auction houses post-financial crisis, but with their focus on antiques and classical art, does the recovery spell good news for contemporary artists as well? “I think Chinese collectors are really eager to learn more,” says Jia Wei, head of modern and contemporary arts at Poly International in Beijing, which trailed only Christie’s and Sotheby’s in 2010 revenues. “In the next five years, there will be growth in the market for contemporary art. But the other part is a challenge for us: are we ready?”
Jia hopes that buyers will spend time poking around galleries and museums first and look beyond the auction catalogues.
This month sees Switzerland’s airports go into gridlock as the art world decamps to Basel for the fair season. The youngest of the lot, Volta (running 13-18 June) is one of the most interesting satellite fairs to spin off from the week’s leading light, Art Basel. Now in its seventh year, 70 international galleries will attend this year’s Volta at the Dreispitzhalle, showing more than 165 emerging artists.
Volta has a special approach: the show’s curators (including Jasper Sharp and Francesco Stocchi) only allow gallerists to show artists that they themselves discovered. “We give these galleries a chance to present and claim their artists on an international platform before they get scooped up by the big dogs,” says Amanda Coulson, executive director of Volta (pictured, top left).
This year, participating galleries have been asked to limit themselves to two-person or solo shows (unlike the usual five or six at Art Basel).