Fred Wilson: Afro Kismet | PACE

There is an awful lot to see in the big main gallery at PACE, all of which is work from Wilson’s showing at last year’s Istanbul Biennial. As the name, ‘Afro Kismet’, suggests, the influences come both from the Middle East and Africa.

The wow factor comes from the centre of the room, dominated by two walls clad in Isnik tiles, and two large Murano glass, black chandeliers. Both gaudy and excessive.


And the walls overflow with ideas. There’s pages from old Islamic texts, illuminated African sculptures, and 19th century oils from (white) artists depicting the mysterious Orient. Black tears run down the wall. One corner is walled off, with another, larger, African sculpture in a wrought iron bird-cage.

There’s a feeling of lavishness, of excess. But some of the most modest works stay with me: little prints from the 19th century that depict African and Middle Eastern scenes, with black people in a strictly ornamental role. Wilson flips the focus, obscuring the prints almost entirely. Except for the tiny patches featuring those blameless locals. We feel implicated as we squint and crane our necks, trying to get a better look.

Fred Wilson: Afro Kismet is at PACE (London). 23 March - 2 April 2018.