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François-Xavier Gbré

Artist presented by
Galerie Cécile Fakhoury, Abidjan, Ivory Coast / Dakar, Senegal / Paris, France

[WINNER LOUIS ROEDERER DISCOVERY AWARD 2020]


EMERGENCE, ABIDJAN, IVORY COAST, 2013 — 2020


“Emergence, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, 2013-2020”
is an installation of 57 small-format photographs made in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire’s economic capital. Gbré documents the evolution of the city and its inhabitants by capturing details of an in-depth investigation of urban territory. Looking through the prism of time, nature or architecture, he recomposes a landscape and a horizon and sketches the experience of Abidjan’s people with a certain amount of restraint.
Since 2011 and the end of the post-electoral crisis, all of Côte d’Ivoire has been rebuilt with spectacular infrastructure. The individual and collective landscape has been reshaped. Gbré chronicled a new chapter in the country’s social history by documenting the clearance of shantytowns and the construction of real estate projects intended for a growing middle class.
“Under French colonialism, Abidjan was the economic capital of Francophone West Africa. Following the independence of Côte d’Ivoire from France in 1960, Abidjan burnished its cosmopolitan reputation as the “Paris of Africa.” Gleaming hotels and modern skyscrapers characterized the skyline of Le Plateau, and upper-class residents settled in the attractive Cocody district. After a prolonged decline in the 1980s, civil conflicts in the early 2000s, and an election crisis from 2010 to 2011, contemporary Abidjan is again experiencing surges of growth and development. The landscape is primed for change…
The photographs of Abidjan that Gbré has made since 2013, including his images of humble structures and soaring towers, provide a circumspect appraisal. Insofar as ‘renewal’ is a polite term for gentrification, Gbré suggests that the markers of progress evident in the landscape, so easily heralded by local government, are underscored by population displacement and expedient design.”

Brendan Wattenberg, excerpt from The Past is a Foreign Country, 2015


FRANÇOIS-XAVIER GBRÉ
Born 1978, Lille, France.
Lives and works in France and Côte d’Ivoire.
While engaging with time and geography, Gbré’s work invokes the language of architecture as a witness to memory and social change. From colonial remnants to landscapes reshaped by current events, he explores territories and revisits history. The artist’s ongoing dialogue with his surrounding environment is rendered in meticulous installations that are veritable investigations of territory, and by in-situ presentations that make photography felt through a physical relationship to the audience.