Artur Walther,64, is a German-American art collector who began collecting artwork and photography in China in the early 1990’s. Following his retirement as a general partner at Goldman Sachs and the founding partner of the firm’s German operations, Walther focused on his collection.
The wave of modernization and economic reform flooding through China resulted in artists recording and analyzing the changes that were occurring. As China competed more in the global market, Walther found himself shying away from their artists and collecting more work from contemporary African artists.
“A number of these [artworks] overlapped continuously,” Walther told theGrio in an interview at the exhibition of his latest exhibition, Distance and Desire: Encounters with the African Archive, which is being shown at the Chelsea Arts Building in New York. “I collected Chinese art very slowly. In the nineties and early 2000, [Chinese art was] a real examination and investigation by the artist of society and of the transformations and of their histories. Which before didn’t happen to that degree [because art] was all propaganda and political.”
“Then, it became very commercial,” he said. “I lost interest. The artists, when I saw them, you had to walk up six flights and we were in these small apartments and they were showing you things and there was a dialogue. Now if you go, these same people, they have factories, they have mansions, they employ fifty people. It’s a completely different thing.” he said.
“I love Seydou Keita‘s work.” he said of the Malian artist, “He photographed the transformation from colonial to post colonial. The establishment of the city. Bamako became a capital then and it was this changed role of the city dweller and his performing and orchestrating of this different role.”
Walther’s new presentation of his collection in New York City is organized by art historian Tamar Garb. It is a three part series that looks at Africa and Africans through different lenses. Part I: Santu Mofokeng and A.M Duggan-Cronin, juxtaposed the Irish-born photographer’s more anthropological presentation of Africans to South African Santu Mofokeng‘s archival collection.
Part II: Contemporary Configuration, presented modern African and African-American artists as they reworked the “stereotype and ethnographic vision” of Africans in the previous era.
Part III: Poetics and Politics will present books, albums, postcards etc. as a complex archive of Africa from the 1870’s to the early twentieth century.
The Walther Collection has released two publications of contemporary African Photography; Appropriated Landscapes and Events of the Self: Portraiture and Social Identity. The third, Distance and Desire: Encounters with the African Archive will be released March 2013.
It is an always growing international collection and now one of the most important private holdings of contemporary African and Asian photography. Part II of the exhibit is from now to March 9, 2013 and Part III will be from March 22-May 18. After New York, the exhibition will move to Burlafingen, Germany.
The collection is currently showing at the:
New York, NY 10001
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