John Akomfrah and Kader Attia Photographs donated to Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art

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The Contemporary Art Society has acquired two moving image works by John Akomfrah and Kader Attia at Frieze London for Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, addressing themes of colonisation and migration.
Middelsborough has the highest number of asylum seekers in the country per head of population, according to a report by the BBC.
Peripeteia, 2012, by John Akomfrah, and Dispossession, 2013, by Kader Attia were purchased through the Contemporary Art Society’s Collections Fund, which was set up in 2012 and this year is working in partnership with Frieze London to support the acquisition of contemporary works of art for Contemporary Art Society museum members across the UK.
John Akomfrah’s Peripeteia, acquired from Lisson Gallery, is the first part of a proposed trilogy that looks at the traces, appearances and disappearances of early African life in Europe.
The film imagines the lives of the subjects of two sensitive portraits drawn by Albrecht Dürer in the 16th Century.
Some of the earliest depictions of African individuals in Western art, their stories are now “lost to the winds of history” and it is a meditation on diaspora and the realities of an imagined promised land.
Kader Attia, Dispossession, acquired from Lehmann Maupin, is an installation that examines the role of Christian missionaries in the colonisation of African cultures. The Vatican has a collection of over 80,000 African artefacts brought back to Europe by missionaries during the colonial era.
These objects are presented as slides alongside a video series of four interviews conducted between Attia, an anthropologist, an art historian, a priest and a lawyer. The subject of repatriation is central to the installation as it considers the political and psychoanalytical questions that arise from the collecting of these objects.
Caroline Douglas, Director of the Contemporary Art Society, said: “I am delighted we have been able to acquire two works that from quite different viewpoints address Europe’s historical relationship with the African continent – its people and cultures.
“These are topics of enormous political and social relevance today and it is particularly pertinent to place these works into Middlesbrough’s collection.
“The first Collections Fund purchase saw Simon Fujiwara tackling the 2011 London riots, the acquisition of Hito Steyerl’s Abstract in 2015 addressed the globalisation of warfare and now with these two works, the scheme is building a strong track record in acquiring work that explores the key issues of our time.”
Alistair Hudson, Director, Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, said: “In austere times, it is becoming increasingly difficult for museums to add to their collections and this award enables us to make sure our collection continues to talk to our communities and the challenges we face.
“These two works don’t just reflect the history that has formed our current culture; they can be used actively, as tools, in our work towards social change.”
The two works will be presented at Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art during spring and summer 2017 as part of the museum repositioning of its collection at the core of the programme. They will be part of seasons engaging with identity politics, the migratory condition, the legacy of neo-liberalism today, and the responsibility of art towards society.
More information is available here.