Art heists make for juicy international headlines, like the lone thief who made off with $123 million worth of works by Picasso, Matisse and Modigliani in Paris last month.
In the contemporary art world, however, an artist’s work that has been lost, damaged or stolen is not usually reported in the media. Most living artists are simply not famous enough (yet) to garner that sort of attention. Nonetheless, the loss can be terrible.
Recently, Nigerian-born artist Fatimah Tuggar visited us at the Nasher Museum to talk about one of her sculptures that she will replace for the upcoming exhibition “The Record: Contemporary Art and Vinyl.” Several years ago, her work “Turntable” was lost somewhere between a museum and an airport in Belgium. See a picture of it here.
It took Fatimah time during the process of replacing the piece to distinguish between trying to recreate
the old piece and accepting the process as the creation of another version of the artwork. One big complication: The flat, round, colorful mat of woven grass, fai-fai, is rare and made by fewer people in Nigeria. It’s mostly been replaced by the plastic plate.
The artist’s description: “a raffia disc, a circular mat or tray.”
Fatimah grew up with faya-faye (that’s plural for fai-fai) as a traditional kitchen tool. Women used it for many things–to fan a fire, pick up something hot, sort grain, cover food. A woman might press a fai-fai to her stomach, wrapping cloth around and around it to form a sort of girdle after childbirth.
Depending on the time of year and the amount of household chores, it might take two to four weeks to weave a single one. The mat is made with grass covered with dyed strips of the leaves of the young dum palm.
Fatimah created fictional record labels for each fai-fai. Now she is working on the replacement base, a piece of ’80s-style furniture to support the record turntable. She is also working on the cleaning and production of a digital copy of the accompanying music.
The music comes from the all-female Nigerian band, Barmani Choge. The group of five or six women sing and play kitchen instruments. Listen to a sample of their music here.
We all look forward to seeing the completed work in August.
IMAGE: Fatimah Tuggar at work.