Malick Sidibé

Exhibition catalogue
The Insiders, a selection of works (1989 to 2009)
from the Jean Pigozzi collection of African art
Fondation Louis Vuitton & Dilecta
Paris, 2017

A Peul by birth and tradition, Malick Sidibé was born in 1937 in Sodoba, a village south of Bamako, the Malian capital where he would live and work and where he died on 14 April 2016. Keen on drawing, he enrolled at the École des Artisans Soudanais in that city, and it was after he graduated as a jewelry-maker that he was introduced to photography by Gérard Guillat.1 In 1956, he bought his rst camera and in 1962 he opened a studio in Bagadadji, a popular quarter of the capital. Alongside his studio work, he photographed the night-life of the city’s young people, winning recognition as the “of cial photogra- pher” of a scene dominated by competing members’ clubs. Socialization continued on Sundays, on the banks of the Niger, and Malick was there as well. From the late 1970s onward he would concentrate on his studio work and camera repair. Sidibé’s work was exhibited at the Rencontres de Bamako in 1994, alongside that of Seydou Keïta. Shown in Paris in 1995, his rst solo exhibition would then travel the world. In 2003, he won the Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography, and at the Venice Biennale of 2007 he was awarded a Golden Lion for lifetime achievement.

The “night club” series, a selection from which is shown here, captures the energy of youth, picturing a joy- ful, supercharged, newly independent Africa, full of prom- ise. During the 1960s and ’70s, Sidibé would go from party to party, taking photograph after photograph. “When Malick arrived, he would announce himself with a ash and people would form a guard of honor for him. He didn’t dance, no, he was too shy, but there would be a table reserved for him. He’d watch and then he’d photo- graph whatever the young people had for him. They were evenings full of humor, thrill, carefree, music, making eyes... When he’d taken his pictures, Malick would get back on his bike to cover other parties, especially at the weekends.”2

His group scenes, frenetically dancing couples and carefully posed portraits have become iconic. They show a carefree, music-loving youth. Sidibé recalled: “Every Saturday night, you had to be elegant, you paid attention to your clothes. To make a good impression, everything had to be impeccable, the pleat of your trousers so sharp you could slaughter a chicken on it! Of course, there was the in uence of French fashion and the lms... What did they listen to? All kinds of music, the Beatles, James Brown, Otis Redding, lots of Afro-Cuban groups. And they danced the rumba, the twist and the merengue.”3 The photographs close in on the pose or attitude, the framing unobtrusive. Sidibé’s gift for staging brings out what is distinctive in his subjects, conferring character, creating personality, re ecting both a sense of communal belong- ing and youth’s quest for individuality.

The photographs testify to an unambiguous complic- ity, a special af nity between the photographer and his subjects. They smile, pose, sometimes strike an exagger- ated attitude, having fun without arti ce or inhibition. Each photograph captures an intimate, light-hearted moment, charged with ephemeral beauty and astonish- ing goodwill.“Sidibé doesn’t take an intellectual approach to his work. If you ask him to discuss his old photographs, the rst thing he talks about is the people; his face lights

1. Gérard Guillat owned the “Photo Service” shop in Bamako.
2.  André Magnin, quoted in Brigitte Ollier, “Malick Sidibé, la photo c’est du tac au tac, c’est plus rapide que le dessin,” Camera No. 2, April–June 2013, p. 6.
3. Ibid., p. 4.





Anaïs Lepage is an independent curator, writer, art historian and lecturer.

Trained in art history at the École du Louvre, in museum studies at the University of Quebec in Montreal and in curatorial studies at the Sorbonne University, she has multiplied her experiences in France and abroad. She began at the Maison Rouge in Paris, at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Montreal, and alongside Guillaume Désanges at the Verrière - Hermès Foundation in Brussels. Then, she became involved as assistant curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chengdu in China, at the Museum of Modern Art in Paris and at the Louis Vuitton Foundation.

With a fondness for collective dynamics, she co-founded the Heiwata curatorial platform, based in Paris, Mexico City and Toronto, and participates in the queer and feminist workshop How to Suppress Universty Writing led by Émilie Noteris. Recently, she has collaborated with AICA International, CNEAI, the Palais de Tokyo, the Cité Internationale des arts and the Drawing Lab in Paris. Since 2019, she is teaching exhibition curating at the Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne University. 

Her research focuses on the excesses and secrets of art history linked to sensitivities and spiritualities as well as postcolonial, gender and feminist studies. She is particularly attached to words, forms and gestures generated outside of a rationalist thinking : drawing on occult and mystical sources; or being inspired by affective flows, emotions and the sentimental life. Practices that often cross issues of resistance, struggle, healing, and relationship to the living. She has developed projects with artists such as Madison Bycroft, Julien Creuzet, Ad Minoliti, and Daniel Otero Torres, among others.

Deploying a holistic conception of curating, she also reflects on the forms of writing about art by shifting the critical, fictional and intimate registers during collaborations, performances and podcasts.

Inspired by radical pedagogies, she began researching the “emotional labor” that operates in the positions of curator,  lecturer, and art worker.

Over the course of meetings and projects, she has developed a particular interest in the artistic scenes of the Americas and the Caribbean, Scandinavia and South Africa.


Anaïs Lepage est curatrice indépendante, autrice, chercheuse et enseignante. 

Formée en histoire de l’art à l’École du Louvre, en muséologie à l’Université du Québec à Montréal et en études curatoriales à l’Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne, elle multiplie les expériences en France et à l’étranger. Elle débute à la Maison Rouge à Paris, au Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal et aux côtés de Guillaume Désanges à la Verrière – Fondation Hermès à Bruxelles. Elle s’investit ensuite en tant que commissaire assistante au Musée d’Art Contemporain de Chengdu en Chine, au Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris, et à la Fondation Louis Vuitton.

Affectionnant les dynamiques collectives, elle a cofondé la plateforme curatoriale HEIWATA, basée entre Paris, Mexico et Toronto, et participe à l’atelier d’écriture queer et féministe How to SupPRESS Universty Writing mené par Émilie Noteris. Récemment, elle a collaboré avec l’AICA International, le CNEAI, le Palais de Tokyo et la Cité Internationale des arts à Paris. Depuis 2019, elle enseigne le commissariat d’exposition à l’Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne.

Ses recherches portent sur les excès et les secrets de l’histoire de l’art en lien avec des sensibilités et des spiritualités ainsi que les études postcoloniales, de genre et féministes. Elle s’attache particulièrement aux mots, aux formes et aux gestes générés hors d’une pensée rationaliste : puisant dans des sources occultes et mystiques ; ou s’inspirant de flux affectifs, d’émotions et de la vie sentimentale. Des pratiques qui traversent souvent les questions de résistance, de lutte, de réparation, et de relation au vivant. Elle a ainsi développé des projets avec des artistes tels que Madison Bycroft, Julien Creuzet, Ad Minoliti, et Daniel Otero Torres, entre autres.

Déployant une conception holistique du commissariat, elle réfléchit également aux formes d’écritures sur l’art en déplaçant les registres critique, fictionnel et intime lors de collaborations, de performances et de créations radiophoniques.

Inspirée par les pédagogies radicales et engagées, elle commence une recherche sur le “travail émotionnel” à l'oeuvre dans les rôles de commissaire d'exposition, d'enseignante et de travailleuse de l’art.  

Au fil des rencontres et des projets, elle a développé un intérêt particulier pour les scènes artistiques des Amériques et des Caraïbes, Scandinave et d’Afrique du Sud.

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