n 1984, the tragic death of a young Dakarois painter, little known at th
time outside his country, sparked a flurry of art critical interest in th
visual expressions of Senegal. Mor Faye died at the age o
thirty-seven, from cerebral malaria, but word on the street was that he ha
died of a broken spirit and mind, driven insane by the political, cultural, an
artistic environment he encountered in postindependence Senegal. At th
time of his death, he left behind a collection of some eight hundred work
most of which are now preserved in the Joint Atlantic Collection, a Ne
York–based foundation run by Senegalese lawyer and art enthusiast Bar
Diokhané, with the financial backing of Spike Lee.
In the years since his death, Faye has achieved, at home and abroad
mythic status as a misunderstood, alienated artistic genius and a polit
cal martyr—the ultimate artiste maudit. Faye’s beatification can be trace
to the highly acclaimed and well-attended 1991 retrospective of his work
curated by Diokhané at the French Cultural Center’s Galerie 39 in Dakar.
was on this occasion that Diokhané first referred to Faye as an African Va
Gogh. When reviewing this show for Artforum, Glenn O’Brien built on th
burgeoning myth, calling Faye ‘‘a poor black Picasso,’’ a ‘‘solitary medicin
man,’’ and a veritable ‘‘African saint.’’1
Faye’s biography, his practice, and his meteoric, posthumous rise to fam
as an ‘‘international’’ and ‘‘outsider’’ artist hold great interest. The com
plexities of his practice and the subsequent reception of his works introduc
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