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Samuel Kane Kwei

Born 1954, Teshie, Ghana
Lives and works in Teshie, Ghana

Samuel Kane Kwei upholds his father’s tradition of decorating coffins in a manner which reflect upon the life of the deceased. Kane Kwei (1922-1992) was trained as a cabinet maker, and in 1951 he opened his own workshop in Teshie, a fishing village on the outskirts of Accra. He built his first decorated coffin—in the shape of a dugout—for one of his uncles, a fisherman who had owned flotilla of them. He dedicated himself from then on to this new funerary art and worked, secluded, almost exclusively for the elders of his clan. The art dealer Vivian Burns introduced his work to American audiences in 1974; over the last thirty years his sculptures and those of his workshop have made an original contribution to the tradition of funerary cults in Western Africa—they have also been collected and exhibited internationally.

Samuel was trained in his father’s workshop, along with other apprentices, and he has made coffins that closely follow his father’s prototypes. For example, Kane Kwei had first carved an onion-shaped coffin for one of the village elders who had made a fortune in growing onions, a staple of the local diet, and Samuel has continued to produce coffins in this form. Another popular form that has been carried down from father to son is that of a white Mercedes Benz, originally conceived as a coffin for an owner of a fleet of taxis, but also used for other wealthy customers. However, Samuel Kane Kwei has also explored other possibilities, creating sculptures that reflect upon more up-to-date aspects of popular culture and daily life. He has also worked freely for more Western clients, creating sculptures that are not intended for funerary use.

With contributions from Thierry Secretan


SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS

1998
01/07 – 23/12
Patchwork in Progress 3 – Samuel Kane Kwei, Sculptures
MAMCO (Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain de Genève)
Geneva - Switzerland

1994
February
Fantastic after-life vehicles from Ghana !
Ernie Wolfe Gallery
Los Angeles - USA

SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS

2011/2012
Sept 24 - Jan 15 2012
Postmodernism, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK

2009
25 Sep – 25 Oct
3 Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art
The Garage Center for Contemporary Culture
Moscow - Russia

2005
29 Jan – 8 May
African Art Now : Masterpieces from the Jean Pigozzi Collection
Museum of Fine Arts Houston
Houston - USA

2003
07/03 – 13/07
Ghana d’hier et aujourd’hui
Musée Dapper
Paris - France

2002 - 2003
Oct 24 / Feb 16
March 14/June 30
Africanishe Reklamekunst
Iwalewa Haus der Universität Bayreuth
Bayreuth – Germany
München Stadtmuseum
Munich - Germany

2002 – 2005
Travelling exhibition
African Art, African Voices : Long Steps Never Broke a Back

7 Feb – 19 May 2002
Seattle Art Museum
Seattle – USA

2 Oct 2004 – 2 Jan 2005
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Philadelphia – USA

12 Feb – 19 June 2005
Wadsworth Atheneum
Hartford - USA

2001
30/06 – 29/08
Ich bin mein Auto – Die maschinalen Ebenbilder des Menschen
Staatlichen Kunsthalle
Baden-Baden - Germany

2001
Un Art Populaire
Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain, Paris. France.

1998
11/09 - 24/11
Africa Africa : Vibrant New Art from a Dynamic Continent.
Tobu Museum of Art
Tokyo - Japan

1997
22/01 – 01/03
Wie das Leben, so der Sarg...
Nam June Paik
Ifa - Galerie Bonn.
Bonn - Germany

Ifa - Galerie Stuttgart
Stuttagart - Germany

1996
Design im Wandel
Herausgegeben von Alessandro Mendini ÛBERSEE Museum
Bremen - Germany

1996
09/03 – 05/05
Neue Kunst aus Africa
Haus der Kulturen der Welt
Berlin - Germany

1994
Kane Kwei / Nam June Paik
Galerie A. Benamoou et Ph. Gravier
Paris, France

1993
Curiosités et Merveilles
Chateau de Oirron, Monument historiques et Centre d'Art
Oiron, France

1993
Skissen eines Projektes
AUSSTELLUNG Auf der Suche : Afrika
Afrika Im Ludwig Forum für internationale Kunst

1991
Africa Explores:
20th Century African Art
New Museum of Contemporary Art
New York - U.S.A.
Dallas Museum of Art
Dallas - U.S.A.
Saint Louis Art Museum,
Saint Louis - U.S.A.

Mint Museum of Art
U.S.A

1990
WAAAAH –A Far African Art
Contrai, Belgium

1989
18/05 – 14/08
Magiciens de la Terre
Centre Georges Pompidou
La Grande Halle de la Villette
Paris - France

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

2005
Africa Art Now: Masterpieces from the Jean Pigozzi Collection
Exhibition catalogue. Published by Merrell in association with the MFAH.

2003
Ghana: hier et aujourd’hui
Exhibition catalogue. Musée Dapper.

2002
Afrikanische Reklamekunst
Exhibition catalogue by Tobias Wendle. Published by Peter Hammer.

2002
Art from Africa : Long Steps Never Broke a Back
Exhibition catalogue. Published by the Seattle Art Museum in conjunction with Princeton University Press.

2001
Ich bin mein Auto – Die maschinalen Ebenbilder des Menschen
Exhibition catalogue. Verlag der Buchlandlung Walther König, Köln, Staaliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden und Autoren.

2001
Un Art Populaire
Exhibition catalogue. Text in French. Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain.

1998
Africa Africa : Vibrant New Art from a Dynamic Continent.
Exhibition catalogue: Toshio Shimizu et al.

1997
Wie das Leben, so der Sarg...
Exhibition catalogue. Nam June Paik. Text in German.
Intitut für Auslandsbeziehungen, Stuttgart. Thierry Secrétan, André Magnin and Iris Lenz.

1996
Afrika : Neue Kunst aus Afrika
Exhibition catalogue. Edition Braus, Heidelberg.

1996
Contemporary Art of Africa
Kane Kwei by Jean-Hubert Martin. Text in English . André Magnin and Jacques Soulillou eds.

1994
Il fait sombre, va t’en
Cercueils au Ghana. Text & photogaphy by Thierry Secretan. Text in French.
Edition : Hazan.

1993
Skissen eines Projektes, AUSSTELLUNG Auf der Suche : Afrika
Afrika Im Ludwig Forum, catalogue. Texte en allemand.

1993
KUNSTFORUM AFRICA IWALEWA International (122)
AFRIKANISCHE KUNST HEUTE BOOK
Texte A.Magnin p.165 –Kane Kwei p.278– p.279.

1989
Magiciens de la terre
Exhibition catalogue. Jean-Hubert Martin, Mark Francis, André Magnin et al.

Samuel Kane Kwei : Biography (eng/fr) Exhibitions

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Samuel Kane Kwei Biography

The Jean Pigozzi Collection - October 26 2014 Contact Caacart