Every summer, French-born designer, art director and photographer Pierre-Christophe Gam visited a new African country with his Cameroonian father and Egyptian-Chadian mother, and this multicultural heritage and upbringing shaped his creative repertoire.
Gam started his career as an interior architect, training at institutes such as École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs in France and Central Saint Martins in London, and specialised in art direction for luxury brands such as Maison Margiela, Kenzo and Cartier.
Five years ago he founded his cultural, educational and philanthropic platform Afro-Polis for emerging and established artists from Africa and beyond. ‘The aim is to create a multidimensional exploration and critical discovery of Africa’s cultural DNA by fostering a participatory forum via events, talks and exhibitions,’ Gam says.
At this year’s Art Africa Fair in Cape Town, he curated the VIP Lounge & Social Hub, in which creatives could engage and exchange ideas. He also showed his body of work, Prophetic Installation, a combination of design and philosophy that formed part of his solo exhibition Sankara: The Upright Man. ‘It’s an apocryphal look at Thomas Sankara’s legacy as president of Burkina Faso,’ he says.
‘My overall narrative is that, similarly to Christ, Sankara is resurrected and has come back to share his values by running in an election for president of the world.’ Gam has worked with Franco-Ivorian chef Löic Dablé on ‘The Chop Bar’, a food installation based on Sankara’s idea about the need to consume what you produce.
‘In the context of post-colonial Africa as a whole, this message goes beyond the simple consumption of produced goods and implies the need for people to take pride in their culture and identity,’ he says. ‘Consume what you produce also means consume who you are.’
What draws you to specific works of art?
I like pieces with a strong storytelling dimension that speak to the new generation of global, interconnected citizens by fusing pop culture with classical references.
What art would you buy with R5 000 to R10 000? An original drawing by French comic-book artist Enki Bilal. R50 000? A photograph by Namsa Leuba. R500 000? A sculpture by Jeffrey Gibson. R1 000 000? A piece by El Anatsui.
Which artwork have you always wanted to own? ‘Depletion’ by El Anatsui.
Any artist’s work our readers should buy now? Cameroon’s Boris Nzebo.
A new artist you have your eye on? Liberian conceptual artist Lina Iris Viktor.
Who is currently big on the African art scene? Visual artist Njideka Akunyili Crosby.
Which local artists are doing well on the international market? Ibrahim Mahama from Ghana.
And your favourite piece of art in your home? A portrait of my mother that I drew in high school.
Any work you’d buy now as an investment? ‘Blood on the Painting’ by Boris Nzebo.
And a piece purely because you love it? ‘Super Blue Omo’ by Njideka Akunyili Crosby.