May 26, 2024


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Bruno Claessens shares his passion for African art at Duende Gallery (Antwerp)

Bruno Claessens shares his passion for African art at Duende Gallery (Antwerp)

Bruno Clasens at an ancient tombstone from Kenya and a contemporary landscape by Mustaf Moshawaya.© FH


Antwerp has many leading galleries, but there has not yet been a space dedicated to African tribal and contemporary art. Even Bruno Clasens, former director of African art at Christie’s in Paris, started Duende Projects at 39 Vlaamsekaai. The inaugural exhibition is dedicated to Mustapha Moshawaya of Zimbabwe.

Frank Herman

Antwerp historian Bruno Clesens has studied tribal and contemporary African art for fifteen years. He wrote books about him and was head of the Paris department at Christie’s. With Duende Art Projects he opened his own space in his home city, where he will hold exhibitions every six weeks presenting a contemporary African artist in dialogue with tribal art.

“I could have worked from home in Zurenborg for dedicated collectors or created a gallery in Brussels alongside colleagues, but there is still no more accessible place in Antwerp to discover African art. I want to show and tell everyone who enters here how rich this art is. Favor Unpopular: This certainly applies to Africa, says enthusiast Bruno Clasens.

Flemish dock

In the past year, he has already organized a few pop-up exhibitions in a former monastery on the Zwartzusterstraat, but with the new permanent space in Vlaamsekaai, he has a location where he can reach both art lovers and passers-by. In the distant past, part of the famous design store Divani was located at the address.

For his inaugural exhibition, which runs until February 12, Bruno Clesens has invited artist Mustapha Moshawaya (42) from Zimbabwe. This is an authority in your country. He’s also made a name for himself in South Africa and London, but his Antwerp show is only his first major solo show on the European mainland.


Moshawaya paints landscapes and portraits in a neo-expressionist style. With pictures, he evokes memories of the mountains of his youth and the people who played a role in his life. The images seem fuzzy at first glance, but upon closer inspection they are full of amazing details. Usually, he would scrape the paint off his canvas and reuse the chips in other paintings. The chips act as a kind of memory.

Claessens combines contemporary paintings with a tombstone from Kenya and Pende portraits from the Congo, which are also weathered with crumbling parts. Wherever or wherever it is made, good art always has universal values ​​that appeal to us. I want to show it on the basis of anonymous contemporary African professors,” Clasens says.

Hence the name of his exhibition: duende, a term from flamenco. “Duende is a moment of inspiration and euphoria. I want to share that.”