Marie-Cécile Zinsou, the founder of the Fondation Zinsou ©️Yanick Folly

The history of the Fondation Zinsou 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 creativity; in the eyes of the artists who have exhibited or come to stay for a few weeks or months within our walls, in the articles that the press around the world has devoted to us, in the many books that we have published over the past fifteen years, or in all the images that you will discover on this site, each of which recounts a part of the adventure, like so many pieces of the jigsaw puzzle of an action that is in constant evolution. 

 

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 these creations interact 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's useless, there are other things to do that are much more important, contemporary art doesn't interest anyone... At the Fondation Zinsou, we refuse to let ourselves be stopped by these speeches, and our audience shows us every day that they are vain and unfounded. For us and for them, art is not only creation for creation's sake. Art also serves to free the spirit. When we are at the feet of a three meter high papier-mâché madman, or in front of Guélédé masks that tell our daily life, it is the barriers that we have in our head that break. And these barriers are in part our preconceptions, our conventions, our academisms. Faced with a school with strict frameworks, faced with a look of the other sometimes condescending, we return to ourselves through art, whatever our age, our origin or the idea we have of ourselves. It holds up an extraordinary

mirror to us and allows us to build ourselves with references that are our own, unique. There are no mistakes in the museum, no mistakes. Each glance has the same value, from the art critic to the schoolboy, from the Zem (motorcycle cab) driver to the university professor. One can ask a question about a work, have eighteen different answers, and none of them will be wrong. 

But this contemporary creation that enriches us all, we do not pretend to have created it. It has always been there. Contemporary art is thousands of years old! The Fondation Zinsou 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, chieftaincies, convents, empires, cities and villages throughout Africa, which have been places of sharing and revelation of a wealth that pre-exists 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 knowing ourselves better, through our own art, history and culture, that we get closer to others. Proud and aware of our strengths and our wealth, we get out of the other's gaze 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 the works of art 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 their best. Too often in Africa, they are asked to be both creators and exhibitors, gallery owners, etc. And yet they need to work on their art first and foremost, and they must be given the space to make it happen. This is what the Foundation is doing. A fair return for these creators who commit themselves and invest themselves at our side with such generosity. 

 

Indeed, it is thanks to them that contemporary art is one of the most popular subjects that can be approached 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 its way. Indeed, one does not create a museum for one's history, one's heritage, but for the future, for the generation to come, to help it define where it is going by helping it to know where it comes from. And in the same way, one cannot create a museum in an emergency of war, famine, nor in a dictatorship. You create a museum when you have confidence in the future, when you have more hope for your children than for yourself. Artists can exist during a revolution or a conflict, but not museums.

 

The gradual emergence of all the new initiatives on the continent - collections, galleries, festivals, research centers, etc. - proves that Africa, beyond the artistic and cultural vitality that characterizes it, is experiencing a global boom. Democracies are being born or strengthened, middle classes are emerging, civil society is taking note of its rights and asserting its freedoms. In 2005, we already considered that art was a "metaphor for development", today there is no need for a metaphor, development is here and art always opens new paths for us.

Marie-Cécile Zinsou

2005

Opening of the Fondation Zinsou

Exhibition "Romuald Hazoumè"

Exhibition "Regards croisés/Afrique d’Aujourd’hui » Jean-Dominique Burton

Creation of the workshop for children, the Petits Pinceaux (The Small Brushes)

2006

Exhibition "Dahomey, Kings & Gods", Cyprien Tokoudagba

Exhibition "Béhanzin, King of Abomey", with the Musée du Quai Branly

Travelling exhibition, "Univers Tokoudagba"

 

2007

Exhibition "Vodoun/Voudounon", Jean-Dominique Burton

Exhibition "Basquiat in Cotonou", thanks to the patronage of Enrico Navarra

 

2008 

Exhibition"Malick Sidibé 08"

Exhibition "Bénin 2059"

 

2009

Exhibition "Collectors of Benin, African Heritages ", exploration of 5 private collections in Benin

Exhibition "An invitation to travel", a walk in the Cotonou train station by Jean Pliya and Alain Chatenet

Opening of the Mini Library of Gbegamey

Launch of the Cultural Bus 

 

2010

Documentary exhibition "Tell me about Independence"

Exhibition "Re-création", a look at the Fondation Zinsou's collections

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

Exhibition in the Royal palaces of Abomey, "The King goes to war"

 

2011

Exhibition "The poll", de Kifouli Dossou

Group show, "Manifesto"

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

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

Exhibition "Let's dance !", Antoine Tempé

Dance festival, 1st edition, "Let's dance !"

Opening of the Mini Library of Akpakpa

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

Research residency of the person in charge of the African collections of the Musée du Quai Branly

Artistic residency of Nicola Lo Calzo 

Art History Lectures by Gaëlle Beaujean  

Graff Attackx, Street art workshop in Cotonou

2012

Exhibition "Nagô hunters of the kingdom of Bantè", Jean-Dominique Burton 

Exhibition "Bruce Clarke"

Workshop de Bruce Clarke

Opening of the three Mini Libraries of Fidjrossè

Opening of the Agla Mini Library

Dance festival, 2nd edition, "Let's dance !"

Artistic residency of Andrew Esiebo

Artistic residency of Baudouin Mouanda

Restoration of the sculptures of Cyprien Tokoudagba on the Slave Road, Ouidah

Renovation of the pediatric department of the National University Hospital, Cotonou

Travelling exhibition "Nago hunters" at the Dakar Biennale 

Travelling exhibition "Let's Dance !" in South Africa

 

2013

Exhibition "Hector Sonon"

Exhibition "Gérard Quenum - Rupture" 

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

Opening of the Ouidah Museum

 

2014

Exhibition "Samuel Fosso "

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

Artistic residency of Tomas Colaço and Sofia Aguiar

Philosophical Expedition - The Room 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 workshop with Martine Giraud 

Artistic encounters with Simon Njami and Erika Nimis

 

 

2015

Exhibition "African Records"

Exhibition "Romuald Hazoumè - Arè"

Exhibition "Kpayo Land - Romuald Hazoumè"

Group show "The fantasy factory"

Dance festival, 3rd edition, "Let's dance !"

Artistic residency of Jérémy Demester 

Release of the app "Wakpon - The museum goes wall-to-wall

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

First participation in Museum Week 

Tenth anniversary of the Fondation Zinsou 

 

2016

Exhibition"Focus on George Lilanga"

Exhibition "Keith Haring in Cotonou" thanks to the patronage of Enrico Navarra

Artistic residency of Catherine Laurent

Artistic residency of Cristina De Middel and Bruno Morais

Artistic residency of Ananias Leki Dago 

Artistic residency of Jérémy Demester 

Partnership of the "Petits Pinceaux" with "the genius lab"

Second participation in Museum Week

 

2017

Exhibition "Malick Sidibé, the griot of portraits"

Exhibition "African Art Tour"

Culinary residency of Chef Loïc Dablé

Exhibition "Sharing territories - Dominique Zinkpè"

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

Artistic residency of Fabrice Monteiro

Third participation in Museum Week

 

2018

Group show "Everyday Africa"

Artistic residency of Pauline Guerrier

Exhibition "Africa is no island", tenth anniversary of the photographic platform Afrique In Visu

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

Exhibition "Sharing of a dream", Pauline Guerrier 

Fourth participation in Museum Week

 

2019

Exhibition "Wax Stories"

Workshop "Activissime" by Ivàn Argote - Bienalsur

Artistic residency of Ishola Akpo 

Artistic residency of Laeïla Adjovi

Fifth participation in Museum Week

Exhibition of the permanent collection

 

2020

Exhibition "AGBARA Women", Ishola Akpo

Artistic residency of Aïcha Snoussi 

Exhibition of the permanent collection

2021

Exhibition "Gros-Câlin", Jérémy Demester

Exhibition "Cosmogonies, Zinsou. An African collection", MoCo Montpellier Contemporain

Exhibition of the permanent collection

Exhibition " احبائي my loved ones", Aïcha Snoussi 

Opening of the LAB in Cotonou

Exhibition Dan Xomę, Cyprien Tokoudagba

2022

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

Residence of Maya Inès Touam

Exhibition "Bruce Clarke"

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