Wolfgang Tillmans: Fragile travels to Johannesburg Art Gallery from Circle Art Gallery and The GoDown Arts Centre in Nairobi, Kenya, where it was presented following its debut at the Musée d’Art Contemporain et Multimédias in Kinshasa in January. (Read more about the exhibition in i-D magazine.) Organized by the Stuttgart-based Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen (IFA) and featuring more than 200 photographs spanning 1986 to 2017, as well as installations, video works, and publications, this was the artist’s first exhibition in Africa. Underpinning the project is the idea of fragility as strength; Fragile is also the name of Tillmans’s band, with whom he made a self-directed visual album in 2016 to accompany their EP That’s Desire/Here We Are that features the transgender model Hari Nef and others dancing to its soundtrack against colored backgrounds.
In an interview with Patrick Mudekereza for the Goethe Institut at the opening of Fragile in Kinshasa, Tillmans explained his reasons for showing his work in Africa: "I work to communicate with people. I chose photography as a medium because I can speak better with it than with words. . . . I believe that cultural exchange is very important. In Europe, we see a lot of musicians and artists from Africa, but it’s my impression that there are not many ambitious exhibitions by European artists in Africa. I toured North and South America in recent years, and then decided I would like to visit a continent that I don’t know at all."
Image: Wolfgang Tillmans, paper drop Prinzessinnenstrasse, a, 2014 (detail)