Exhibition:Christian Nyampeta: Sometimes It Was Beautiful
Venue: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1071 Fifth Avenue, New York
Location: Rotunda
Dates: April 30–June 21, 2021

From April 30 through June 21, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum presents the exhibition Christian Nyampeta: Sometimes It Was Beautiful. Inspired by Senegalese writer and film director Ousmane Sembène’s idea of cinema as a collective learning environment, artist, filmmaker, and writer Christian Nyampeta transforms the Guggenheim’s rotunda into a venue for collective feeling and cooperative thinking. With his 2018 film Sometimes It Was Beautiful as the centerpiece, the immersive installation comprises film, audio, videos and drawings. This project explores proposals for reimagining the earth as a whole and a shelter for all who inhabit it.

Christian Nyampeta: Sometimes It Was Beautiful is organized by Xiaoyu Weng, The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Associate Curator.

Visitors are welcomed into a museum infused with warm, red light. Suspended in the rotunda is a projection of the US premiere of Sometimes It Was Beautiful, in which a group of unlikely friends gather to watch and critique films made by Swedish cinematographer Sven Nykvist in the Congo between 1948 and 1952. Their discussion highlights enduring tensions surrounding social transformation, cultural property, and who has the right to representation. During intermission between the hourly screenings of Sometimes It Was Beautiful, the center projection features an interlude program of short works from the Congo-based video art festival Boda Boda Lounge. In the latter half of the exhibition, the program will comprise recordings of conversations and activities of poets, scholars, writers, and other collaborators whom the artist invited to the museum to discuss varied experiences and shared histories among communities across the African diaspora.

On the museum’s ramp, visitors can watch, reflect, and converse on furniture designed by the artist and modeled after his childhood school environments in Rwanda. Drawings presented in selected bays provide a glimpse of Nyampeta’s ongoing autobiographical timeline project, which is driven by the question, “How come my name is Christian?” A gallery displaying drawings and recording instruments, with music and other audio, references the Transcription Centre, a London recording studio that became an archive and distributor of taped interviews with African writers. At the top of the ramp, The Africans (2021), a radio play about the fictional trial of Nigerian poet and political activist Christopher Okigbo stages key scenes from the 1971 science fiction novel The Trial of Christopher Okigbo by Kenyan philosopher and novelist Ali A. Mazrui.

Support for Christian Nyampeta: Sometimes It Was Beautiful has been provided by The Mondriaan Fund, the Dutch Culture USA program by the Consulate General of the Netherlands in New York, Yang Lan, and Yitong Wang.

Christian Nyampeta

Christian Nyampeta works in New York, London, the Netherlands, and Rwanda, where he convenes the Nyanza Working Group of Another Roadmap School. Recent solo exhibitions include collective iterations of École du soir (The Evening Academy) at SculptureCenter in New York, at e-flux Video & Film, and at Keleketla! Library in Johannesburg. Other exhibitions include Words after the World at Camden Arts Centre in London and A Flower Garden of All Kinds of Loveliness Without Sorrow at the Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst Leipzig (GfZK), co-commissioned by Contour Biennale 9 in Mechelen, Belgium, and co-produced with Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Brussels; Perdu, Amsterdam; and Wilfried Lentz Rotterdam. Nyampeta participated in Risquons-Tout at WIELS Centre d’Art Contemporain in 2020; the 5th Ural Industrial Biennial of Contemporary Art in 2019; Dak’Art – Biennale de l’Art Contemporain 2018; and the 11th Gwangju Biennale in 2016. He runs Radius, a radio station, and holds a Ph.D. in visual cultures from Goldsmiths, University of London. He was awarded the 2019 Art Prize Future of Europe from the GfZK and the European Union Prize at the 12th Bamako Encounters—African Biennial of Photography in 2019.

Recent and forthcoming publications include essays in Camera Austriae-flux journalfriezeGuernica, and Metropolis M, and an interview in Contemporary And. Recent teaching activities include examinations, seminars, lectures, and performances at the curatorial practice program of University of Bergen, Norway; the Dutch Art Institute, Arnhem, Netherlands; Columbia University, New York; Sandberg Institute, Amsterdam; School of Visual Arts, New York; Konstfack, Stockholm; the Royal Institute of Art, Stockholm; the curatorial training program of Para Site, Hong Kong; the Major Seminary Philosophicum of Kabgayi, Rwanda; and the Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study.

About the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation was established in 1937 and is dedicated to promoting the understanding and appreciation of modern and contemporary art through exhibitions, education programs, research initiatives, and publications. The international constellation of museums comprises the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice; the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao; and the future Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. An architectural icon and “temple of spirit” where radical art and architecture meet, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is among a group of eight Frank Lloyd Wright structures in the United States recently designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. To learn more about the museum and the Guggenheim’s activities around the world, visit guggenheim.org.

Visitor Information

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The Guggenheim is implementing health and safety measures in consideration of visitors and employees and in compliance with New York State and City guidelines. Face masks are mandatory inside the museum for anyone over the age of two. New requirements should be reviewed in advance of a visit; they are posted on COVID-19 Safety Measures: What to Expect When Visiting.