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Bisi Silva. Photo: Aderemi Adegbite.
Bisi Silva. Photo: Aderemi Adegbite.

Bisi Silva (1962–2019)

Renowned curator Bisi Silva, the founder of Lagos’s Center for Contemporary Art (CCA) has died, The Nation reports. Silva passed away on Tuesday, February 12, after a long battle with cancer. She was fifty-seven years old.

Over the course of her more than twenty-five-year career, Silva worked to promote cross-cultural discourse on contemporary art. She opened the CCA in 2007 to create an experimental space for young artists. At the time, Lagos only had commercial galleries that rarely promoted media other than painting and sculpture. “I realized then that I would have to start an organization that supported new artistic and curatorial possibilities,” Silva said in a 2017 interview.

Since then, the CCA has become an important platform for research on and exhibitions of African art, as well as for the professional development of curators in Nigeria and West Africa. The nonprofit houses a library that has has amassed a significant collection of materials on contemporary art, critical theory, and curatorial practice, with more than seven thousand books, magazines, journals, videos, and other ephemera.

The CCA is also where Silva runs the Àsìkò International Art School, a nomadic program that was launched in response to the need for better arts education in Nigeria. “The same impetus that drove the founding of an art library at CCA, Lagos, was the catalyst for Àsìkò: to give access to information that could lead to meaningful dialogue, exchange, and collaboration,” Silva said.

In addition to curating exhibitions for the CCA—including “Democrazy” (2007–2008), “Jide Alakija: Owambe, Aso-Ebi and the Politics of Dress” (2011), and “Kelani Abass If I can save time” (2016–17), among others—Silva worked on a number of international projects, such as “J.D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere: Moments of Beauty” (2011) at the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki; “The Progress of Love” (2012–13), a transcontinental collaboration between the Menil Collection in Houston, the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts in Missouri, and the CCA; and the Second Thessaloniki Biennale of Contemporary Art (2009) in Greece.

Silva also served as one of the curators of the Dak’Art Biennale, Senegal, in 2006; was artistic director of the Tenth Bamako Encounters, African Biennale of Photography, Mali, in 2015; and was a member of the international jury for the 2013 Venice Biennale, for the Pinchuk Art Centre’s 2014 Future Generation Art Prize, and for the 2018 Hugo Boss Prize. Her writing has been featured in publications such as Artforum, Third Text, The Exhibitionist, and Art South Africa.