Gerard Quenum (Beninese, born 1971) 'The Electricians' (2001) 198 x 23.5 x 32cm (77 15/16 x 9 1/4 x 12 5/8in) including base.

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Lot 29W
Gerard Quenum
(Beninese, born 1971)
'The Electricians' (2001) 198 x 23.5 x 32cm (77 15/16 x 9 1/4 x 12 5/8in) including base.

Sold for £ 4,375 (US$ 5,744) inc. premium
Gerard Quenum (Beninese, born 1971)
'The Electricians' (2001)
signed 'QUENUM' to base
carved wood post, electrical wire, plastic dolls, string
198 x 23.5 x 32cm (77 15/16 x 9 1/4 x 12 5/8in) including base.

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    Acquired from the October Gallery, London in 2008.
    A private collection.


    Born in 1971, Gerard Quenum was raised in Benin's capital, Porto Novo. Due to the region's lack of artistic institutions and facilities, Quenum received no formal training. Instead he spent his teenage years working as an apprentice for a decorator. This gave him an opportunity to learn a wide range of techniques in a number of different media, including wood, metal, paint, plaster and clay. Quenum and his fellow apprentices formed their own artistic movement, encouraging one another to experiment and innovate.

    Quenum's aesthetic is characterised by his use of 'urban detritus', discarded objects that he finds on the streets around his studio. His sculptures are frequently constructed from bits of bone, wood and plastic. However, he also incorporates objects associated with Beninese traditions including mortars, drums and staffs. Quenum is interested in the way the original functions of these objects continue to inform his assemblages. The ritual elements lend the sculptures a spiritual quality. The artist claims he is paying his respects to ancestral customs.

    Quenum's grandmother was a Beninese priestess. He claims that her practices fundamentally influenced his artistic approach. In this tradition, "objects must be very precisely placed to interact with their environment so as to create a special ambience". In referencing ancestral customs, Quenum acknowledges his debt to tradition and simultaneously pays his respects.

    The artist first began to incorporate plastic dolls into his sculpture in the late 1990s. Whilst walking one day, he happened across a plastic doll abandoned by the roadside. Such toys frequently find their way to Benin as part of overseas aid packages. The doll was soaked through, and so Quenum took it back to his studio and nailed it to a wooden post to dry. Over the next few days, he was struck by the pity and compassion the doll aroused in his visitors. In an interview with Gerard Houghton in 2012, Quenum commented:

    "The face of each doll inspires me, almost as if the doll were telling me its story, and my job is to understand and then to surround it with whatever props are necessary to render that story visible...I'm prompted to give these foundlings a safe place from where they can recount the stories of the things they have been."

    The doll series deals with themes of abandonment and human suffering, but the artist maintains it is fundamentally positive. The incongruous juxtaposition of the doll's head with the roughly carved wooden post lends the sculpture a humorous, even mischievous quality. Quenum reminds the viewer that even in the gloomiest circumstances, there are "moments of illumination".

    Quenum held his first solo exhibition in Cotonou, Benin in 1998. Since then his works have been shown in Paris, London and Brazil. In 2012 he exhibited a series of assemblages entitled Dolls Never Die at the October Gallery in London.

    Bibliography
    G. Houghton, Gerard Quenum: Dolls Never Die, (London, 2012) pp.2-10.
Contacts
Gerard Quenum (Beninese, born 1971) 'The Electricians' (2001) 198 x 23.5 x 32cm (77 15/16 x 9 1/4 x 12 5/8in) including base.
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