SEYDOU KEÏTA - (c.1921 – 2001)
Since his photographs were first seen in the west 30 years ago, Seydou Keïta has been acknowledged as one of the great practitioners of the medium, his work collected and shown by the world’s leading museums.
Born circa 1921, Seydou Keïta lived in Bamako, Mali, where from 1948 through the 1950s he ran a successful portrait studio taking pictures of local individuals and families. Essentially self-taught, Keïta developed his trademark style photographing his sitters in daylight against a variety of backdrops from plain drapes to vibrant African pattern. No matter the situation Keïta had a natural gift and a refined aesthetic that made his portraits distinctive works of art. Technically, his negatives were perfectly exposed and focused. More importantly however, his pictures captured the spirit of his sitters in the most generous manner and in naturally captivating compositions.
Completely unknown outside of Bamako, Keïta was “discovered” by westerners in the early 90’s due to the eye of African Art collector Jean Pigozzi. After seeing two uncredited pictures in a 1992 group show of African Art, Pigozzi sent his curator André Magnin to Mali to try to locate the un-named artist from Bamako. Magnin found Keïta repairing bicycles and returned to Paris with 921 negatives Keïta had buried when the government shut down his studio. Pigozzi then arranged for one of the leading printers in Paris to make archival prints of the images under Keïta’s supervision.
In 1994 Keïta was given a solo show at the Fondation Cartier followed by an impressive number of museum shows around the world. By the time of his death in 2001 Keïta was not only recognized as a master of photography but in his use of contrasting backdrops his work has influenced a whole generation of artists, most notably painters Mickalene Thomas and Kehinde Wiley, and triggered a worldwide interest in African photography.
The prints on exhibition are authenticated estate prints limited to editions of 10 prints of each image. Each print comes with a certificate signed by Keïta’s heirs, Cheickiné and Mamadou Keïta.