Visual arts

Élise Atangana

Working with contemporary African art seemed to me to be a way of understanding new points of view and of deconstructing clichés.

A curator and producer of independent exhibitions since 2004, Franco-Cameroonian Élise Atangana has become one of the most promising figures in the world of contemporary art over just a few years.

Updated on 21/02/2019

2 min

Élise Atangana was working for the communications department at the SNCF Foundation when she discovered the Revue noire, an African publication on contemporary art. This discovery was a true revelation: “It was the first time that I saw a visual art that represented me”. She then contacted Simon Njami, co-founder of the magazine and a Cameroonian exhibition curator.

This meeting marked the start of a fruitful collaboration: they worked together, notably during the Havana Biennial in 2006 and for the Venice Biennial in 2007, where they would create the first African Pavilion in the Biennial. Thus began Élise Atangana's career as independent curator and producer of exhibitions.

In 2012, Élise Atangana was the artistic coordinator for the 3rd edition of the Rencontres Picha during the Lubumbashi Biennial in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The exhibition, entitled “Enthusiasm!”, focused on how contemporary art changes our perception of the urban space.

Beginning in 2015, Élise Atangana focused her work on questions of mobility, both spatial (movement from point A to point B) and virtual (within the imaginary). She thus questions the influence the mobility of people and ideas on space, and its consequences for contemporary art.

This theme was at the heart of the "Entry Prohibited to Foreigners” exhibition presented in Sweden in June 2015 under her curation: There, 11 international artists exhibited works representing their idea of mobility.

Élise Atangana is committed to promoting contemporary African art. When working for the Dakar Biennial in 2014, she aimed to strengthen the fundamental position of this event on the African continent, promoting “works by emerging or established artists who have never participated in a biennial before”.

The commissioner for the second Kampala Biennial in Uganda in 2016, she highlighted local artists and discussed the economic and social development that the city was then experiencing.

In 2014 and 2016, she was also invited to be part of the jury of Artes Mundi that supports contemporary global creation in the UK by selecting a new artist to support financially.

From March to May 2018, Élise Atangana presented a new exhibition at the Kadist gallery in the 18th arrondissement of Paris, “This Is Utopia to Some”. This collective international exhibition, bringing together French, American and Kenyan artists, blurred the boundaries between elitist art and popular culture through video installations and still images.

  • 2007


    Élise Atangana works with Simon Njami on the “Check-List Luanda Pop” exhibition for the first African Pavilion at the 52nd Venice Biennial.

  • 2014


    Élise Atangana is a co-curator for the 11th Dakar Biennial in Senegal.

  • 2015


    Élise Atangana organises the “Entry Forbidden to Foreigners” exhibition in Boden, Sweden, where 11 international artists present works present works representing their idea of mobility.

  • 2016


    Élise Atangana is the curator for the second Kampala Biennial in Uganda, which focuses on the city's seven hills.

  • 2018


    Élise Atangana is curator of the "This is Utopia to Some" exhibition in Paris.

The Institut français and the curator.

Selected by the Institut français Young Curators programme, Élise Atangana undertook research at the Delfina Foundation in London in 2015.


The Young Curators programme aims to distribute the work and research of French curators and art critics by promoting their integration into international professional networks.

L'institut français, LAB