Events of the Self
Portraiture and Social Identity

6/17/2010 — 5/15/2011

SK 854 Walther Collection Keita Seydou Untitled 1959 crop

Conceptual Framework

The Walther Collection opens its exhibition and publishing programs with Events of the Self: Portraiture and Social Identity, introducing works from its African Collection. Under the curatorial direction of Okwui Enwezor, the exhibition comprises a series of four projects filling all nine galleries and integrating the work of three generations of African artists and photographers with that of modern and contemporary German photographers. This combination of African and German works will serve as a model for the kind of curatorial process that animates the character of the collecting program. Each of these exhibitions is organized with an analytical view towards exploring the broad history of photography.

On the occasion of the 15th edition of Paris Photo and its "Private Collections" series, The Walther Collection presented Events of the Self: Portraiture and Social Identity from November 10–13, 2011 at the Grand Palais in Paris.

BHB-404_Walther Collection_Becher Bernd Hilla_Hochoefen-Blast-Furnaces_grid_1969-95
Bernd & Hilla Becher, Blast Furnaces, 1969–95

The White Cube

The main exhibition in the central gallery features a group of contemporary African artists working with photography and video installation. This work is organized around the issues of portraiture, portrayal, gender, sexuality, performance, theatricality, and identity. Upstairs, the second-floor gallery features a group of large color photographs of the late Nigerian-British artist Rotimi Fani-Kayode, whose staged portraits of the late 1980s explored issues of gender, sexuality, eroticism, and identity.

RFK-116_Walther Collection_Fani Kayode Rotimi_Untitled_1987-88
Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Untitled, 1987–88
RFK-118_Walther Collection_Fani Kayode Rotimi_Every Moment Counts_1989
Every Moment Counts, 1989
RFK-127_Walther Collection_Fani Kayode Rotimi_Nothingto Lose XII_1989
Nothing to Lose XII, 1989

The Black House

The exhibition in the Black House focuses on concepts of seriality and typologies in the works of Bernd and Hilla Becher, Malick Sidibé, and J. D. 'Okhai Ojeikere. Black-and-white pictures of obsolete modern machinery by the Bechers, black-and-white headshots by Ojeikere in which he analyzes the subjects' hairstyles, and Sidibé's back view portraits of men and women, all provide a complement of both intuitive and formal approaches in the work of this generation of artists. Included in this group is Santu Mofokeng, who presents a slide-projection piece that examines portraiture, self-representation, and colonialism in nineteenth-century South Africa.

Oje 301 Walthercollection Ojeikerejdokhai Untitledhairstyles 6
J. D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere, Untitled [Hairstyles], 1970–79

The Green House

In the Green House, a dual exhibition focusing on portraiture and the idea of societal transition and social transformation, features the magisterial and influential portraits of two great modern masters: Seydou Keïta (Mali) and August Sander (Germany).

AS 481 06 Walther Collection Sander August Antlitz Der Zeit Face Of Our Time Jungbauern Young Farmers 1914
August Sander, Jungbauern (Young Farmers), 1914, from the series " "Anlitz der Zeit" (The Face of Our Time)"
SK 877 Keita cropped to match Sander
Seydou Keïta, Untitled, 1952–55

This presents two contrasting moments of the twentieth century along with the cultural implications of photography in showing the changes these societies were undergoing while the portraits were being made. In both portrait series, the poses and gestures that the sitters adopt in front of the camera suggest the idea of the modern individual.

For further information, please see our exhibition guide.

Artworks on display

    Artists on display

    Press reviews

    Events of the Self: Announcement on e-flux

    Read more


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