After opening much-watched galleries in Chicago and Seattle that spotlight artists of the African diaspora, the French-Somali gallerist is returning to Paris with newfound perspective and a mission to diversify the city’s burgeoning post-Brexit art market.
Mariane Ibrahim first moved to the U.S. a decade ago when she realized that, despite France’s colonial history in Africa, there simply wasn’t much of a market for art from the continent’s diaspora. Since then, she opened a much-watched gallery in Chicago and has experienced a meteoric rise as one of the art world’s foremost gallerists championing Black creative talent. While most of her expanding roster hails from Africa or are of African descent—Amoako Boafo, Peter Uka, Florine Demosthene, and Maimouna Guerresi among them—she emphasizes that both her gallery and roster shouldn’t be put into a box.
Now, Ibrahim is bringing that message back to Paris by inaugurating a brand-new outpost on Avenue Matignon. Located in a 4,300-square-foot space within a stately Haussmanian building, the three-floor gallery heralds a key moment for the Avenue’s renaissance. The French capital has experienced a renewed sense of optimism and vibrancy within the past year, due in part to post-Brexit fallout that has attracted a multitude of high-profile galleries such as Christie’s, Skarstedt, Perrotin, and White Cube. “The 8th arrondissement reminds us of our initial initiative to move to Chicago, where we felt like there was something new happening,” Ibrahim told Artnet News in March, when her move was first announced. “We’re very lucky to be present for the beginning of a new resurrection of certain areas. Paris is becoming a city that’s going to compete in the major art market, and we’re eager to be a part of that.”
The inaugural exhibition, which opens September 18, explores Ibrahim’s mutual love for both the U.S. and France. Titled “J’ai Deux Amours” (“I Have Two Loves”) after Josephine Baker’s signature song about similar themes, the group show sees each participating artist create two never-before-seen works. It’s a timely homage—Baker will be inducted into the French Panthéon, one of France’s highest honors, for her work with the Resistance during World War II. Ibrahim describes the exhibition as “an anthem for love and connectivity, emphasizing diverse cultural backgrounds as being sacred, especially amidst the rise of cultural resistance and the recent health crisis.”
Ibrahim’s own personal connection with Paris guided her decision to return. (Her French citizenship also came in handy given ongoing travel restrictions.) “Paris is re-enchanted and is reconnecting with what it once was culturally, historically, and artistically,” she says. “We see this as an incredible opportunity for our represented artists to be part of the momentum of the global stage and alerts the significant contribution of artists from the African diaspora to the canon—past, present, and future.”