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The history of the Zinsou Foundation can be read in many ways, in the eyes of young Beninese adults, who have come since childhood to visit exhibitions and discover a world of creations; in that of the artists who have exhibited or have come to stay for a few weeks, a few months within our walls, in the articles that the press from all over the world has devoted to us, in the numerous books that we have published in the last fifteen years or even in all the images that you will discover on this site and which each tell a part of the adventure, like so many pieces of the puzzle of a constantly evolving action. 

Our fundamental Mission, since June 2005, is simple and ambitious: to share with all our populations the pride of the cultural creations of our continent, Africa, and to make dialogue these creations with the world. 

The Foundation fights in its own way against the prejudices that still too often surround artistic and cultural initiatives in Africa: it is useless, there are other things to do that are much more important, contemporary art no one cares... At the Zinsou Foundation, we refuse to let ourselves be stopped by these speeches and our public demonstrates to us every day that they are vain and baseless. Because for us and for them, art is not just creation for creation's sake. Art also serves to free the mind. When you are at the feet of a madman in papier-mâché three meters high, or in front of Guélédé masks that tell our daily life, it is the barriers that we have in our heads that break down. And these barriers are partly our preconceptions, our conventions, our academicism. Faced with a school with strict frameworks, faced with a sometimes condescending gaze from others, we come back to ourselves through art, whatever our age, our origin or the idea we have of ourselves. same. It holds up an extraordinary mirror to us and allows us to build ourselves with references that are unique to us. There is no error in the museum, no fault. Every look has the same value, from the art critic to the schoolboy, from the Zem (motorcycle taxi) driver to the university professor. You can ask a question about a work, have eighteen different answers, and none will be wrong. 

But this contemporary creation that enriches us all, we do not claim to have created it. She has always been there. Contemporary art is thousands of years old! The Zinsou Foundation is part of an ancestral tradition of the African continent. We are not here to format art, or artists. We take up the practices of courts, chiefdoms, convents, empires, towns and villages all over Africa, which have been places of sharing and revelation of a wealth that preexists us; in Dahomey for example, where there was a status of “artist”, in the same way as that of weaver, soldier, miller... We are simple megaphones. 

It is by getting to know each other better, through the art, history and culture that are specific to us, that we get closer to others. Proud and aware of our strengths and our wealth, we come out of the gaze of the other which is often too internalized: the gaze of the big on the small country, of the powerful on the weak, of the rich on the poor. Works of art are a “mirror of excellence” that puts everyone on an equal footing. Pride in works leads to pride in oneself, and helps to build oneself as an individual and as a Nation. Finally, the Foundation invests so that artists can offer us the best they have. Still too often in Africa, they are asked to be in the oven and in the mill: creators, exhibitors, gallery owners, etc. And yet they need to work on their art above all and they have to be given the space to make it exist. This is what the Foundation is working to do. Fair return for these creators who engage and invest themselves alongside us with so much generosity. 

Indeed it is thanks to them that contemporary art is one of the most popular subjects that we can discuss here, in Benin. Far from the clichés about art for art's sake, abstruse, confused, obscure and understood by a few happy few, here we know that artists create "for us", and especially for children, who themselves know it. It is the creator who puts himself at the service of all. If they know it today, it is because we are lucky enough to live in a time and in a country, and even on a continent, where the best is yet to come, where it is already on the way. Indeed, we do not create a museum for its history, its heritage, but for the future, for the next generation, to help it define where it is going by helping it to know where it comes from. And similarly, you cannot create a museum in an emergency of war, famine, or in a dictatorship. We create a museum when we have confidence in the future, when we have more hope for our children than for ourselves. Artists can exist during a revolution or a conflict, but not museums. The gradual emergence, across the continent, of all the new initiatives that we have seen hatching lately – collections, galleries, festivals, places of research, etc. – proves that Africa, beyond the artistic and cultural vitality that characterizes it, is experiencing global growth. Democracies are born or strengthened, the middle classes emerge, civil society takes note of its rights and affirms its freedoms. In 2005, we already considered that art was a "metaphor for development", today there is no longer any need for metaphor, development is there and art always opens up new paths for us.

Marie-Cecile Zinsou

Juin 2005 Affiche de la première exposit


Opening of the Zinsou Foundation

Exhibition "Romuald Hazoumè"

Exhibition "Crossed Views/Africa Today" by Jean-Dominique Burton

Creation of the workshop for children, Les Petits Pinceaux



Exhibition "Dahomey, Kings & Gods", Cyprien Tokoudagba

Exhibition "Béhanzin, King of Abomey", in partnership with the Quai Branly Museum

Traveling exhibition, "Tokoudagba Universe"



Exhibition "Vodoun/Voudounon", by Jean-Dominique Burton

"Basquiat in Cotonou" exhibition, in partnership with Enrico Navarra



Exhibition "Malick Sidibe 08"

Collective exhibition "Benin 2059"



Exhibition "Collectors from Benin, African Heritage", exploration of 5 Beninese private collections

Exhibition "The invitation to travel", wandering at Cotonou station by Jean Pliya and Alain Chatenet

Opening of the Gbegamey Mini-Library

Start of the Cultural Bus 



Documentary exhibition "Tell me about independence"

"Re-creation" exhibition, a look at the collections of the Zinsou Foundation

Traveling exhibition "Africa Style", Baudouin Mouanda and Malick Sidibé

Exhibition in the Royal Palaces of Abomey, "The King is going to war"



Exhibition "The Survey", by Kifouli Dossou

Collective exhibition, "Manifesto"

Exhibition in the Royal Palaces of Abomey, "Discovering bas-reliefs"

Exhibition of the Nago Hunters in the Paris metro, "Africa at a metro ticket from your home"

Exhibition "Let's dance now!", Antoine Tempé

Dance Festival, 1st edition, "Let's Dance Now!"

Opening of the Akpakpa Mini-Library

Exhibition at the Nuits de Fourvières, "The heroes of survival", Romuald Hazoumè

Research residency of the head of the Africa collections at the Musée du Quai Branly

Residence of Nicola Lo Calzo 

Les RDV du M'Art'Di - Art History Conferences by Gaëlle Beaujean  

Graff Attackx, Street Art workshops in Cotonou


Exhibition "Nago Hunters of the Kingdom of Bantè", Jean-Dominique Burton 

Exhibition "ABC, With Bruce Clarke"

Workshop by Bruce Clarke

Opening of the three Mini-Libraries of Fidjrossè

Opening of the Mini-Library of Agla

Dance Festival, "Let's Dance Now!" #2

Residence of Andrew Esiebo

Residence of Baudouin Mouanda

Restoration of sculptures by Cyprien Tokoudagba on the Slave Route, Ouidah

Renovation of the pediatric service of the CNHU, Cotonou

Nago hunters at the Dakar Biennial 

Let's Dance! (Let's Dance Now) in South Africa 



Exhibition "Hector Sonon"

Exhibition "Gérard Quenum - Rupture" 

Conference of  Christophe Cassiau-Haurie on the history of comics in Africa

Opening of the Ouidah Museum



Exhibition "Samuel Fosso"

Exhibition of the Lagos Photo Festival in Cotonou, "Afronauts" by Cristina de Middel and "C'Stunners" by Cyrus Kabiru

Residence of Tomas Colaço and Sofia Aguiar

Philosophical Expedition – The Bedroom of Robert Adjavon, Tomas Colaço

"I Like Insects,  Insects Like Me" by Sofia Aguiar

"The Standing Men", Bruce Clarke, Ouidah

Winner of the Praemium Imperiale, awarded in July in Paris and in October in Tokyo  

Philosophical Workshops with Martine Giraud 

Meetings with Simon Njami, Erika Nimis




Exhibition "African Records"

Exhibition "Romuald Hazoumè - Arè"

Exhibition "Kpayo Land - Romuald Hazoumè"

Collective exhibition "The fantasy factory"

Dance Festival, "Let's Dance Now!" #3

Residence of Jérémy Demester 

Release of the application "Wakpon - The museum makes the wall"

Presentation of "Wakpon - The museum makes the wall" in the Special projects of "1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair" in London

First participation in Museum Week 

The 10 years of the Zinsou Foundation 



Exhibition "Focus on George Lilanga"

Exhibition "Keith Haring in Cotonou"

Residence of Catherine Laurent

Residence of Cristina De Middel and Bruno Morais

Residence of Ananias Leki Dago 

Residence of Jérémy Demester 

Partnership of "Petits Pinceaux" with "The Lab of Geniuses"

The application "Wakpon - The museum makes the wall" and the "Small Brushes" travel to schools in Cotonou

Second participation in Museum Week



Exhibition "Malick Sidibé, the griot of portraits"

Exhibition "African Art Tour"

Exhibition "Sharing territories - Dominique Zinkpè"

Exhibition "On an infinite horizon is played the theater of our affections", Joël Andrianomearisoa

Residence of Fabrice Monteiro

Third participation in Museum Week



Collective exhibition "Everyday Africa"

Residence of Pauline Guerrier

Exhibition "Africa is not an island", ten years of the Afrique In Visu platform

Exhibition "Cotonou (s), History of a city "without history""

Exhibition "Sharing a Dream", Pauline Guerrier 

Fourth participation in Museum Week



Exhibition "Wax Stories, stories of loincloths"

"Activissime" workshop by Ivàn Argote as part of the Bienalsur

Residence of Ishola Akpo 

Residence of Laeïla Adjovi

Fifth participation in Museum Week



Exhibition "AGBARA Women", Ishola Akpo

Residence of Aïcha Snoussi 

Exhibition of the permanent collection


Exhibition "Gros-Câlin", Jérémy Demester

"Cosmogonies" exhibition, MoCo Montpellier Contemporain

Exhibition of the cpermanent collection

Exposure " احبائي my loved ones", Aïcha Snoussi 

Opening of the Cotonou LAB

Exhibition Dan Xome, Cyprien Tokoudagba


Screening of "Restore African art, the ghosts of colonization" in the presence of director Laurent Védrine

Residence of Maya Inès Touam

Bruce Clarke Exhibition

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