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Carlos Basualdo is Curator of Contemporary Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Ivan Vladislavic has written and edited several nonfiction works on apartheid and art. Gabriele Guercio has written works on modern and contemporary art as well as the history of art theory. Okwui Enwezor is Dean of Academic Affairs and Senior Vice President at San Francisco Art Institute.
There are many color plates representing many artists. The text provides several layers of context for the artists and artworks, referring to a few as examples. It takes some work to get through the writing, but it introduces the kinds of ideas that someone with a serious interest in contemporary African art would want to know. The book is not intended to be self contained. The reader should have a general familiarity with the historiography of western and African art and a post-modern vocabulary. Much of the text refers to traditional and modern (i.e. colonial era) art which is not illustrated. Quick on-line searches and having an academic library handy generally help fill in that information. Although the text is likely to be an obstacle to the general reader, it gives the serious reader a good idea where to look to complete the picture. The plates provide a survey, though not a comprehensive one, of artists who appear in global exhibitions, partly because Enwezor is one of the main players in selecting artists for global exposure. The reader who wants to know more about any of the artists can sometimes find fuller explanations elsewhere. There is a bit of a social and political agenda in the writing, but until Africa is accepted as a norm, instead of treated as marginal, agendas are probably inevitable and necessary. Theoreticians and historians are more concerned about that than many artists, though. Covering the entire scope of this book fully, and explaining it to a non-specialist, would require an encyclopedic work. I am content with the authors's solution of covering so much ground in a single book. Books by Chris Spring are a good complement and more accessible to the general reader.
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