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Carnegie Int’l
57th ed., 2018

Carnegie Museum of Art
4400 Forbes Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

+1 412 622 3131


Bisi Silva, A Tribute

18 Feb 2019

Large-scale, floor-to-ceiling photographs that depict a white horse with a pink highlights, and a flowering bush with colors that complement the horse.
Mimi Cherono Ng’ok, Here in the weary world, somewhere between time and space, we shall be free… (detail), 2018. Photo: Bryan Conley

Bisi Silva’s passing is marked with a profound sense of loss by her colleagues at Carnegie Museum of Art. Institutions around the world were enriched by Silva’s championship of contemporary African art and artists and her generosity of spirit. As an art historian and curator, photography was her focus.

“Bisi was a passionate advocate for African photography both on the continent and in a global context,” says curator of photography Dan Leers, who has known and worked with Silva since 2012. “She inspired me and many other curators, artists, and creative thinkers to travel to Nigeria and experience the vibrant artistic scene she helped build in Lagos.”

She was renowned as a big picture thinker. Holding a lens to art of the African diaspora, Silva’s forceful vision shaped culture at large. She created the Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos, in 2007 as an urgently needed hub for exhibitions, publications, and talks in one of the world’s fastest growing cities. Three years later, she established the roving academy Àsikò, to promote critical and art historical thinking across Africa. Kenyan photographer Mimi Cherono Ng’ok—whose billboard-sized photograph currently greets visitors to the 57th Carnegie International—is part of a generation of artists mentored by Silva.

“The impact of Bisi Silva’s work is immediately appreciated through a network of participants in the Carnegie International,” says curator Ingrid Schaffner—referring to photographer Cherono Ng’ok, sculptor El Anatsui, independent exhibition maker Koyo Kouoh, and writer Emmanuel Iduma, all of whom credit the significance of her work.

Silva visited Pittsburgh in 2016, prior to embarking on a research trip with Schaffner to the Caribbean for the International. She led a drawing workshop at the museum, based on African traditions of mark-making envisioned through contemporary art.

Her power to connect shines throughout the art world.

Presenter, Bisi Silva, curator, addressing audience in Carnegie Museum Hall of Architecture
Bisi Silva addressing an audience in the Hall of Architecture at Carnegie Museum of Art.