January 22, 2008

"A Working Man And His Adorable Twins," By Seydou Keita

seydou_keita_twins.jpg

Seydou Keita was the retrospective godfather of African photography. He took his modest portraits of the citizens of Bamako, Mali, in his streetfront photo studio until the country's independence in 1960. Rather than risk confrontation with the government, he buried 7,000 negatives in his backyard for decades. They were "discovered" and transformed into grand-scale, modernist icons by the Western art world. [Two years ago today (!), the Times had a long, disheartening article on the control, exploitation, and reinterpretation of Keita's work.]

This small-ish print, 14x20 inches, was printed in 2001 from a 1950's negative. The printer, Philippe Sala√ľn, worked with Keita from 1994 until the artist's death in 2001. By some accounts, the last years of that collaboration were a little sketchy. Which makes me wonder if the estimate of $4-6,000 when it comes up for auction next week at Phillips, is a little tentative, too.

LOT 73: Seydou Keita, 1950's [phillipsdepury.com]

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