Around the same time in 2017, French President Emmanuel Macron pledged that the repatriation of African art from French museums would be a top priority for his government. Cecile Fakhoury discovered a number that truly shocked and alarmed her. About 90 percent of her gallery in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire has been sold to international collectors.
Whereas her reason for creating the Galerie Cécile Fakhoury was to sell West African art to regional collectors and help bolster the local art scene, she felt like history was repeating itself.
Ms. Fakhuri has participated in international art fairs since opening her gallery in 2012. She decided she needed to find another way to work. In 2018, Ms. Fakhoury opened an outpost in Dakar, Senegal. This city was not only the focal point of the regional art scene but also had a powerful cultural infrastructure, including the influential Dak’Art biennial of contemporary West African art.
This expansion gave Ms. Fakhuri the chance to meet with a number of West African art collectors to balance the turnover a bit. It is also a good moment, she said, as a number of collectors from across the continent are revising their collections.
It means a lot to her collectors and artists that Ms. Fakhuri was able to find a balance between local art and entering the global art market.
In October, she opened her new gallery in Paris with the “Un pied Sur Terre” exhibition, which features emerging artists including Elladg Linsey Delumo and Marie-Claire Messuma Manlanbien, as well as renowned artists including Ouattara Watts and James Coco Bi. She will also take part in the FIAC International Exhibition of Contemporary Art for the third time.
At FIAC, Ms. Fakuri will present the work of one of the west African artists from Senegal, Cheikh Ndiaye, with his first solo exhibition in Europe. Mr. Ndiaye, who works in Dakar and New York, said he was initially attracted to her gallery by her desire to become an important international gallery located in Africa.
Now her percentage has been recalibrated. 40 percent of her collectors are from Africa and 60 percent from elsewhere. It’s time to go outside the continent. This came immediately after the opening in Abidjan last year of a project space specifically geared towards emerging artists and large-scale non-profit installations.
Parisian art is nothing new for Ms. Fakhuri because. She grew up as a part of it. Her parents run the Hervé Peron contemporary art gallery. And Ms. Fakhuri spent most of her childhood in museums and auctions. After completing her Master of Arts at the Graduate Institute of Arts, she did an internship at galleries, including the David Zwirner and Chantal Cruzel Galleries.She moved to Abidjan in 2011 with her husband, whose father is the famous Lebanese-Ivorian architect Pierre Fakhouri. It was an instant introduction to the country’s art scene.
Ms. Fakhuri’s dedication to local and regional art has won her many fans who also want to see the West African art infrastructure grow and develop. Frank Hermann Ekra, a freelance art critic and curator based in Abidjan and Paris, called Ms. Fakhouri a good partner for this project to change the narrative of West African art.