Malian Photographer Malick Sidibé Dies at 80

His work is currently on view at Jack Shainman Gallery.

Venice, ITALY: Malian photographer Malick Sidibe shows his Golden Lion (Leone d'oro) 10 June 2007 during the 52nd Venice Biennale, Italy. Sidibe, 72, became the first African to clinch the top honour and richly merited the lifetime achievement award as he has been "the signal portraitist of his city and nation and the intimate observer of the Malian musical scene."
Photo: SEBASTIANO CASELLATI/AFP/Getty Images.

Known for his street scenes and studio shots that render a portrait of post-colonial Mali, photographer Malick Sidibé has died at 80 years old. An exhibition of vintage and recent works is on view through April 23 with his New York dealer, Jack Shainman, who confirmed his death.

He was the first African and the first photographer to win the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement, on the occasion of the 2007 Venice Biennale, “Think with the Senses Feel with the Mind,” curated by Robert Storr.

Malick Sidibé poses with his lifetime achievement award Golden Lion (Leone d'oro) during the 52nd Venice Biennale, Italy. Photo: Sebastiano Casellati/AFP/Getty Images.

Malick Sidibé poses with his lifetime achievement award Golden Lion (Leone d’oro) during the 52nd Venice Biennale, Italy.
Photo: Sebastiano Casellati/AFP/Getty Images.

“Malick’s passing brings great sadness and his absence from the art world will surely be felt widely,” Shainman said in a statement to artnet News. “Personally, he was a humble, kind man with a warm heart and I am honored to have worked with him. I am proud to say his creative influence continues, with contemporary artists and musicians across pop culture still drawing inspiration from his iconic photographs, decades after he began his groundbreaking career. Malick’s dynamic celebration of life lives on in these joyful images.”

Good photographers, Sidibé told the Guardian in 2010, need “a talent to observe, and to know what you want. You have to choose the shapes and the movements that please you, that look beautiful.” They must also, he said, be “friendly, sympathique. It’s very important to be able to put people at their ease. It’s a world, someone’s face. When I capture it, I see the future of the world. I believe with my heart and soul in the power of the image, but you also have to be sociable. I’m lucky. It’s in my nature.”

Malick Sidibé, <i>Jeune Fille avec</i>, 1970/2004.<br>Photo: courtesy Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

Malick Sidibé, Jeune Fille avec sacoche en main, 1970/2004.
Photo: courtesy Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

Among the distinctions he earned are the International Center of Photography Infinity Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2008 and the Hasselblad Foundation’s annual award in 2003.

Malick Sidibé has documented an important period of West African history with great feeling, enthusiasm and commitment,” said the Hasselblad Foundation. “In his portraits and documentary photography, he has uniquely captured the atmosphere and vitality of an African capital in a period of great effervescence.”

Malick Sidibé, <i>Vue de dos—Juin</i>, 2003-2004.<br>Photo: courtesy Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

Malick Sidibé, Vue de dos—Juin, 2003-2004.
Photo: courtesy Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

While Sidibé was comfortable in his role as documentary photographer, he struck out into new territory in the last decade and a half with his Vue de dos series, in which he takes on the genre of the female nude at Jack Shainman Gallery.

The artist’s work is included in numerous public collections throughout the US, from the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to the Getty Museum, in California, as well as noted private collections such as that of German-American collector Artur Walther.


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