New York

Fred Wilson

Afro Kismet

Jul 10–Aug 17, 2018

Pace Gallery is pleased to present Fred Wilson: Afro Kismet, an exhibition featuring the artist’s most recent body of work originally produced for the 15th Istanbul Biennial in the Fall of 2017.

Exhibition Details

Fred Wilson
Afro Kismet
Jul 10 – Aug 17, 2018


510 West 25th Street
New York


Fred Wilson, Untitled (Zadib, Sokoto, Tokolor, Samori, Veneto, Zanzibar, Dhaka, Macao), 2011, illuminated plastic globe, acrylic paint, tassels, steel armature, plaster figure, and powder coated aluminum plate, 28" x 20" x 20" (71.1 cm x 50.8 cm x 50.8 cm) © Fred Wilson

The genesis of Fred Wilson: Afro Kismet stretches back to 1992 when Wilson presented Re:Claiming Egypt, at the 4th International Cairo Biennale and to 2003 when Wilson represented the United States at the 50th Venice Biennale with Speak of Me as I Am. Even before being invited by Elmgreen & Dragset to participate in the 15th Istanbul Biennial in 2017, Wilson’s interest in the city had already piqued; he conceived of the city as the third leg in a historically and culturally connected eastern Mediterranean triangle which also included Cairo and Venice. Through his research, Wilson developed a conceptual basis for the Istanbul project in which he contextualized pieces from the city’s Pera Museum’s Orientalist collection with new and existing works of his own. "My work is about an issue which is both personal and universal. […] A new meaning emerges from the coming together of art and history […] bring[ing] a fresh perspective to things we are used to seeing in museums. You can say that I tell a history which is not adequately discussed…” Fred Wilson, 2017.


Fred Wilson, Love is a Country He Knew Nothing About, 2018, Hassan, Arab Stallion with his Haik, 1858 by Alfred De Dreux, gilded wooden frame, Lobi figure, Bateba, pedestal, Plexiglass, digital print, vinyl lettering, 98" × 81-1/2" × 52-1/2" (248.9 cm × 207 cm × 133.4 cm), overall installed © Fred Wilson

For Pace in New York, Wilson will reconfigure the installation, which includes two chandeliers, two monumental Iznik tile walls, four black glass drip works, and a globe sculpture, as well as installations and vitrine pieces that gather cowrie shells, engravings, photographs, a Yoruba mask, and furniture, among other objects the artist discovered in his frequent trips to Istanbul throughout 2016 and 2017. Presented together, these works will constitute the third unique installation of Fred Wilson: Afro Kismet. In addition to the installation, Pace will present a selection of the artist’s Murano glass works and drip sculptures in the adjacent gallery.

Since the 2003 Venice Biennale, Wilson’s Murano glass chandeliers, with their evolving shifts in scale, color, and complexity, have become vehicles for the artist’s meditations on blackness, death, and beauty. The new chandeliers, included in the exhibition, combine black Murano glass with traditional metal and glass elements of Ottoman chandeliers, thus fusing two histories of craftsmanship and symbolizing the complex relationship between the Venetian and Ottoman Empires.

68400 (1).jpeg

Fred Wilson, Not in a Hurry, Like From One Day to the Next, but, Every Day, Every Day, For Years, For Generations (detail), 2017, wooden walls, window, carpet, table, birdcage, chair, African sculptures, 6' 5-3/16" × 3' 11-1/4" × 10' 2-13/16" (196.1 cm × 120 cm × 311.9 cm) © Fred Wilson

Throughout the exhibition, Wilson utilizes alluring materials—from richly colored tiled walls to luminescent glass—to represent and investigate the long-ignored presence of communities of African descent in Turkey. In the two Iznik tile walls, the Arabic calligraphy translates in one case to “Mother Africa” and in the other to “Black is Beautiful.” The new globe sculpture titled Trade Winds refers not to its original meaning related to weather patterns but to the tragic global trade in human beings. The juxtaposition of recent works by Wilson with works from the 19th century—including Orientalist paintings with African subjects by Rudolf Ernst, Alfred De Dreux, and William James Mueller—not only questions notions of universal knowledge and truth, but also sheds light on a history not thoroughly examined. By combining contemporary objects and museum-quality artifacts, Wilson challenges the assumptions of exhibition methodology and art historical scholarship. As Wilson stated in an interview with Julie Belcove in the Financial Times at the time of the London venue of Afro Kismet, “I also wanted to connect to the present in some way, because as much as I’m interested in the deep past, the Afro-Anatolians live in the present. They are part of the African diaspora.” (Belcove, Julie. “Fred Wilson: ‘As an Artist, I Don’t Have to Stick to the Script” Financial Times, 16 March 2018)


Fred Wilson

Fred Wilson challenges assumptions of history, culture, race, and conventions of display. By reframing objects and cultural symbols, he alters traditional interpretations, encouraging viewers to reconsider social and historical narratives.

Learn More

New York — Fred Wilson, Afro Kismet, Jul 10–Aug 17, 2018