The Walther Collection Project Space

526 West 26th Street, Suite 718 New York, NY 10001


Hours: Wednesday - Saturday, 12pm-6pm


Santu Mofokeng, Andrew Putter, Pieter Hugo, Sabelo Mlangeni, Zanele Muholi, Candice Breitz and Zwelethu Mthethwa at The Walther Collection Project Space

Distance and Desire: Encounters with the African Archive

A three-part exhibition series on photography from Southern Africa, Distance and Desire: Encounters with the African Archive presents rarely before seen portraits, albums, cartes de visite, and books from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The exhibitions stage a dialogue between ethnographic visions and contemporary engagements with archival imagery and feature recent work African and African American artists. Distance and Desire offers new perspectives on the archive, reimagining its poetic and political dimensions, its diverse histories, and its changing meanings. The series is curated by Tamar Garb.


The Walther Collection Project Space, New York Part I: Santu Mofokeng and A.M. Duggan-Cronin September 13 - November 17, 2012

The opening exhibition juxtaposes A.M. Duggan-Cronin's 'The Bantu Tribes of South Africa' with Santu Mofokeng's 'The Black Photo Album / Look at Me: 1890-1950.' Duggan-Cronin's eleven-volume study, published between 1928-1954, is renowned and contested for preserving an ethnographic vision of African heritage. In contrast, 'The Black Photo Album,' created in 1997 by contemporary South African artist Santu Mofokeng, is an archive of pictures - commissioned by black South Africans in the early twentieth century - and stories about the subjects, challenging fixed ideas of the "native type" most often associated with photographic representations of Africans.

Gallery Talks:

Jennifer Bajorek on Santu Mofokeng September 25, 2012 at 7pm

Jennifer Bajorek is a lecturer in the Department of Photography and Imaging at New York University.??John Peffer on Portraiture in South Africa ?October 23, 2012 at 7pm ?John Peffer is Associate Professor of Contemporary and Nonwestern Art History at Ramapo College.

Part II: Contemporary Reconfigurations

November 30, 2012 - March 9, 2013

This exhibition centers on photography and video art by contemporary African and African American artists who engage critically with the ethnographic archive by parodying, replaying, exposing, and dialoguing with its pictorial tropes and traditions. A stereotype or ethnographic vision in one era may provide material for an irreverent reworking, satirical performance, or elegiac reenactment in another. Addressing how the archive - broadly understood as an accumulation of representations, images and objects - figures in the practices of contemporary artists in Africa, the exhibition features recent work by Sammy Baloji, Candice Breitz, Samuel Fosso, Pieter Hugo, Zanele Muholi, Sabelo Mlangeni, Zwelethu Mthethwa, Andrew Putter, and Carrie Mae Weems.

Gallery Talk:

Awam Amkpa on Contemporary African Photography February 12, 2013 at 7pm

Awam Amkpa is Associate Professor in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University.

Part III: Poetics and Politics March

22 - May 18, 2013

A presentation of vintage portraits, books, albums, postcards, and cartes de visite, this exhibition reveals the complexity of the African archive, showing works produced in the 1870s to the early twentieth century. Focusing on the pictorial languages deployed by photographers and the contexts in which images are made to circulate, both historically and today, these portraits and figure studies depict Africans predominantly through the filters of European cameras and mentalities. The images make visible both the ideological frameworks that prevailed during the colonial period in South Africa as well as the extraordinary skill of photographers working in the studio and the landscape.

Gallery Talks:

Tamar Garb on 'Distance and Desire' March 23, 2013 at 3pm

Tamar Garb is the Durning Lawrence Professor in the History of Art at University College London.

Hlonipha Mokoena and Cheryl Finley in conversation on The South African Photo Album April 9, 2013 at 7pm

Hlonipha Mokoena is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University. Cheryl Finley is Associate Professor of Art and Visual Studies at Cornell University.

Symposium Encounters with the African Archive

November 10, 2012, 10am - 5pm

New York University, Silver Center, 100 Washington Square East

Coinciding with the exhibition series, The Walther Collection, in collaboration with New York University and University College London, will present a symposium to explore issues raised by the collection's archive of African photography. This one-day event brings together leading international scholars to exchange, debate and open up the categories often used to describe historic photographs of Africans: colonial, ethnographic, anthropological, artistic. The symposium will provide a space for rethinking the African archive in relation to the concerns of contemporary critics and artists. Participants include Elizabeth Edwards (Durham University), Tamar Garb (University College London), Christraud Geary (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston), Michael Godby (University of Cape Town), Erin Haney (George Washington University), Salah Hassan (Cornell University), Hlonipha Mokoena (Columbia University), Riason Naidoo (South African National Gallery), Gabi Ncobo (University of the Witswatersrand), Chika Okeke-Agulu (Princeton University), John Peffer (Ramapo College), and Deborah Willis (New York University).

Free and open to the public. To register, email invitation@walthercollection.com.


The exhibition program will be accompanied by the publication of a major scholarly catalogue, 'Distance and Desire: Encounters with the African Archive', edited by Tamar Garb and Artur Walther. Released in March 2013 to coincide with the opening of "Poetics and Politics," the catalogue, co-published with Steidl, will include all exhibited visual material as well as new research generated by the symposium's debate and discussion.


The Walther Collection, Neu-Ulm, Germany

Distance and Desire: Encounters with the African Archive June 8, 2013 - May 18, 2014

The culmination of the exhibition series will be an expanded presentation of Parts I, II, and III of 'Distance and Desire' at The Walther Collection's museum campus in Neu-Ulm, Germany. For the first time the exhibition will be shown in its entirety, complete with additional contemporary works that will broaden the dialogues and juxtapositions staged in New York.

13 September 2012 - 17 May 2015