Malick Sidibé is a photographer known for his black-and-white images chronicling the exuberant lives and culture, often of youth, in his native Bamako, Mali in the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s. Sidibé’s work documents a transitional moment as Mali gained its independence and transformed from a French colony steeped in tradition to a more modern independent country looking toward the West. He captured candid images in the streets, nightclubs, and sporting events and ran a formal portrait studio.
In a 2010 interview with John Henley in The Guardian Sidibé explains, “To be a good photographer you need to have a talent to observe, and to know what you want. You have to choose the shapes and the movements that please you, that look beautiful. Equally, you need to be friendly, sympathique. It's very important to be able to put people at their ease. It's a world, someone's face. When I capture it, I see the future of the world. I believe with my heart and soul in the power of the image, but you also have to be sociable. I'm lucky. It's in my nature."
Sidibé was born in Mali in 1936, where he is still based. His work has been exhibited extensively. In 2012 the DePaul University Art Museum, Chicago, organized an exhibition title Studio Malick in collaboration with Gwinzegal/diChroma Photography that traveled to Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College, Florida, and will be on view at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College in Spring 2014. In 2008, a solo exhibition was organized by Fotografiemuseum (FOAM), Amsterdam, the Netherlands. It traveled to Musée Nicéphore Niépce, Chalon-sur Saône. Both solo exhibitions were accompanied by catalogues. In 2008 his work was also shown at the University Art Gallery at the University of San Diego, California,
Sidibé has work in numerous public and private collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Getty Museum, California, the Brooklyn Museum, New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, California, the Baltimore Museum of Art, Maryland, the Birmingham Museum of Art, Alabama, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania, and the Rhode Island School of Design Museum. He was awarded the International Center of Photography Infinity Award for Lifetime Achievement (2008), the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement Award by the Board of La Biennale di Venezia (2007) when he was included in Think with the Senses Feel with the Mind, curated by Robert Storr at the 52nd Annual Venice Biennale, and the Hasselblad Award (2003).
Jack Shainman Gallery has represented Sidibé since 2002. Solo exhibitions at the gallery include Malick Sidibé (2011), Malick Sidibé: Photographs: 1960-2004 (2005), Studio Malick (2003) and Mali (2002). His next show with the gallery will be in spring 2014.
MALICK SIDIBÉ NEWS
In the early 1990s, European and American curators and art dealers became aware of African photographs taken in the mid-20th century by the operators of small portrait studios, particularly in Mali. Discovering negatives that had been stored for decades, they went about printing, exhibiting and selling these works, making local photographers like Seydou Keïta and Malick Sidibé international art stars in the process.
What happened, however, is that the original nature of the photographs — the way they were made and later displayed — got a bit lost as they made their way into galleries and museums. Instead of the small, low-contrast prints their original clients would have commissioned and owned, the photos were shown as large, high-contrast prints, in keeping with the tastes and practices of the ’90s European and American art world. “Malick Sidibé: Chemises” at The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., offers an opportunity to see some of these works in their near original state, with 50 small vintage prints being shown alongside 53 recent enlargements.
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