A Madagascan Telecoms Magnate Is Opening an Innovative Paris Gallery to Support African Artists

The nonprofit gallery will focus on contemporary art from Madagascar and other African countries.

Havas Hiridjee. Courtesy of Fondation H.

Paris is getting a new space for contemporary art that focuses on artists in Madagascar, as well as those from surrounding African nations.

In partnership with the artist residency Cité internationale des arts, the new Fondation H building opens tomorrow in the fourth arrondissement, not far from the gallery-rich neighborhood of the Marais. Founder Hassanein Hiridjee, the multimillionaire CEO of telecommunications company Axion Group, says the idea to open a Paris space had been a discussion for several years before coming to fruition.

Its first show, titled “Echoes of the World,” focuses on the Paris-based, Madagascan painter Malala Andrialavidrazana, who Hiridjee describes as the “godmother of the place.” Her work consists of elaborate photomontages that redraw symbolisms of contemporary and precolonial African culture.

Artists will be able to sell works at the space, though the foundation, which is a nonprofit, will not take any revenue.

“My wish is to bring, through this unique place, the French and international public closer to contemporary African creation by creating new bridges and opportunities,” Hiridjee tells Artnet News. “For me, as a collector at heart and passionate about contemporary art, creating a foundation for contemporary art was the culmination of a reflection on the meaning I wanted to give to this passion.”

Fondation H was founded five years ago in Antananarivo, Madagascar, with a set of missions: to support Malagasy artists, to develop arts education, and to uplift contemporary African artistic expression. Soon after its founding, the Cité internationale des arts in Paris became a partner of Fondation H.

The foundation also supports the Prix Paritana, an annual prize that recognizes three outstanding artists from the African island and offers them a residency in Paris at at the Cité internationale des arts. Fondation H also organized an exhibition on Madagascar at the Musée du Quai Branly Jacques Chirac in 2018.

“The Malagasy artistic scene needs more than ever to be supported and encouraged: centers and spaces dedicated to art exist only in a very limited number, there is no artistic training for young people,” says Hiridjee. “In Madagascar everything is at stake today for artists and future artists: if we do not offer them solutions to imagine, train, create, and dream, all these talents and energy will be lost forever.”

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