Gérard Quenum : Artist Resume

Quenum belongs to the Fon ethnic and linguistic group in Benin. His early years were spent with his grandmother, who was regularly called upon to perform twins rituals.* These, as well as other Voodoo rites, and the objects associated with them, fascinated Quenum and deeply impacted his work.

His paintings have evolved significantly over time. For many years, his canvases were covered with brushstrokes and packed with energy and colors; they were impulsive and even “a little violent” (his own words). In 2012, he felt a need for change and radically altered his process. Now, it is only after a period of intense reflection that he starts painting. His backgrounds are emptied of color. The characters are downsized and reduced to just a few with no features or details. Each artwork creates a mood and an emotion. Through his singular focus, Quenum invites us to truly engage with his subjects, leaving it to us to imagine their story and surroundings.

Quenum creates his sculptures with dolls and other discarded materials (wood, beads, shells, thread, etc.). The dolls have a story: originally from Europe, they were bought on the second-hand market and played with by a succession of children. In the sand, the red dust, their skin tone darkened and their hair became matted. After years of use and sometimes abuse, they were abandoned or lost.

Quenum’s first encounter with a doll was pure coincidence; with its mud caked hair, pulled out eyes and broken limbs, it stirred something in him that remains to this day. The doll had been a witness to the struggles and suffering of the child who played with it – through the bond forged between them, the doll itself had been imparted with life.

In each doll since, Quenum sees an opportunity to write a happier story and redeem some of humanity’s afflictions with a touch of humor and approachability. For him, the process is a spiritual journey.

Quenum’s creative process differs depending on whether he is painting or making sculptures. The inspiration for the sculptures comes from the dolls themselves. They are the starting point. It is quite the contrary for his paintings, where inspiration is external - triggered by observing those around him or exploring current events and people’s reactions to them.

 *The incidence of twins in West Africa is the highest in the world. Twins are revered and believed to have certain powers. Special ceremonies are performed when they are born and throughout their “lives”, whether they are alive or dead. Dead twins are represented by small sculptures which share the lives of the family as if the twin/s was/were among them.



Solo Exhibitions



Jumeaux - Ibedji, Gallerie Vallois, Paris

If not when, then why, Gallery Ilé, Amsterdam


Rêves et réalités, Galerie 23, Amsterdam, Netherlands


Gérard Quenum - Peintures récentes, Galerie Roy Sfeir, Paris, France

Gerard Quenum, Art 21 Gallery, Lagos, Nigeria


Rupture, Fondation Zinsou, Cotonou, Benin

Regards déracinés, Galerie Christopher Berger, Lausanne, Suisse


Dolls Never Die, October Gallery, London, UK, in 2012


O dragão entre dois mundos, Museu Afro Brasil, São Paulo, Brazil

Humeur d’artiste, Résidence Virchaux, Cotonou, Bénin


Clandestins, October Gallery, London, United Kingdom


Maison des jeunes et de la culture, Fontainebleau, France

Ateliers d’Allones, Allones, France


Exhibit in  Chalon-sur-Saône and Chagny, France


Gerard Quenum, Galerie Treger, Art Singulier, rue Mazarine, Paris, France


Gerard Quenum, Centre culturel français, Cotonou, Benin


Voix intérieures, Maquis Dunya, Cotonou, Benin


Collective Exhibitions



Réflection, Galerie Walls, Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire

A Tribute to Spatiality, Septième Gallery, Cotono, Benin
Art du Bénin d'Hier et d'Aujourd'hui, Musée Mohammed VI, Rabat, Maroc
Révélations! Art Contemporain du Bénin, Fondation Clément, Martinique



In-discipline #1, Espace Expressions, Fondation CDG, Rabat, Morocco

In-discipline #1, Espace Montresso, Marrakech, Morocco



Stop Ma Pa Ta, Villa Arson, Nice, France

  Paris-Cotonou-Paris, Galerie Vallois, Paris, France

 Regard contemporain sur l’art africain, Musée Mohammed VI, Rabat, Morocco


Hommage au Bénin, Centre d’Art Contemporain du Château de Tanlay, France


Temps modernes— Oeuvres monumentales, UNESCO, Paris, France

Temps modernes – la mémoire de l’esclavage et l’art contemporain, Galerie Vallois, Paris, France

Africa-Africans, Museu Afro-Brasil, São Paulo, Brazil


Mickey au Bénin, Galerie Vallois, Paris, France

3 artists from Benin, Art 21 Gallery, Lagos, Nigeria


 Sculpteurs béninois contemporains, Galerie Vallois, Paris, France


Bénin contemporain, Galerie Vallois, Paris, France

Moving into Space: Football and Art in West Africa, Inaugural exhibit of the National Football Museum, Manchester, United Kingdom

No limit – Une œuvre/un artiste, Galerie Imane Farès, Paris, France


Aido Wedo , sculpture created for the Africa Museum, Berg en Dal, The Netherlands

Africa ancestral e contemporânea, Centro de Arte Oticica Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


Fesman (Festival mondial des Arts nègres), Dakar, Senegal

Regard – Bénin – 1.0, Cotonou, Benin

Gerard Quenum et Dominique Zinkpè, les Chailloux, St Boil, France


O Benin está vivo ainda là, Museu da Cultura Afro-Brasileira, Salvador, Brazil

Artistes contemporains du Bénin, Joigny, France

Voo-Doo / Hoochie Coochie & the Creative Spirit, Riflemakers, London, United Kingdom


Bénin 2059, Fondation Zinsou, Cotonou, Benin

Partilhar territorios, Biennal 2008, São Tomé e Principe

L’oeil de Caïn, Festival Sun’art, Lourmarin, France

Angaza Afrika, African Art Now, October Gallery, London, United Kingdom

Bénin, corps et âme, Médiathèque de Melun, France

Benin, de corpo e alma, Galeria Bernardo Marques, Lisbon, Portugal


O Benin está vivo ainda là, Museu Afro-Brasil, São Paulo, Brazil

Voyages – Crossing the Lake of Fire, October Gallery, London, United Kingdom

Reflets Afrique, l’Espal, Le Mans, France


Africas, Galerie Raquel Arnaud, São Paulo, Brazil

Sculpture (and workshop), Châlon-sur-Saône, France


Mural with Zinkpè and Tchif in Limoges, France


8 artists, Pontigny, France

Ewole, Rencontres et Résidences Internationales d’Arts Visuels,Togo


Boulv’art, La Ciotat, France

Boulv’art, les artistes dans la rue, Cotonou, Benin

Tchif, Quenum, Zinkpè, 3 jeunes béninois, traveling exhibit in Benin, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, Togo, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire


Rendering visible, contemporary art from the Republic of Benin, October Gallery, London and Cambridge University, United Kingdom

Boulv’art, les artistes dans la rue, Cotonou, Benin

Bénin, Cergy-Pontoise, France


Boulv’art, les artistes dans la rue, Cotonou, Benin


Ewole, Rencontres et Résidences Internationales d’Arts Visuels, Togo


Art béninois contemporain, Centre culturel français, Cotonou, Benin


Festaco, Porto-Novo, Benin


Art Fairs

2017  Paris Art Fair, Grand Palais, Paris, France Art Fair

2015  1:54, New York, USA

 2014  Contemporary art fairs Johannesburg and Dubaï

 2000  L’harmattan 2000, 1st Beninese Fair of Contemporary Art, Cotonou, Benin



2018 Jardin Rouge, Montresso Foundation, Marrackech, Morocco

2007 Ateliers d’Allones, Allones, France


The British Museum, London, United Kingdom

The Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts, Stanford University, Stanford, USA

Museo Afro-Brasil, São Paulo, Brazil

National Museum of Scotland

Galerie Vallois, Paris, France

Estúdio Buck, São Paolo, Brazil

Galeria Bernardo Marques, Lisbon, Portugal

Afrika Museum, Berg en Dal, The Netherlands

Museu Nacional da Cultura Afro-Brasileira, Salvador-de-Bahia, Brazil

Fondation Zinsou, Cotonou, Benin

October Gallery, London, United Kingdom