In 1934, the American painter, poet and designer, Florine Stettheimer, designed the set and the costumes for the production of Virgil Thomson’s iconic opera, Four Saints in Three acts, with cellophane! At the time, cellophane was a novel material that had been invented in 1912 and was at the height of its popularity. While Stettheimer is remembered for her Cathedral series, her depiction of the frivolous life led by the elites (she was one of them) during the depression era and recently, an auction record of $375,000 for her Floral Still Life painting, she is celebrated for the innovative use of cellophane in her designs.
In the same modernist spirit, Ghanaian artist, Ablade Glover introduces into his acclaimed market scenes an accessory that can be considered the symbol of the communication age: the mobile phone.
The octogenarian started painting these market scenes in the 1970s, and, along with his other works, they have been widely exhibited in Africa, Europe, Japan and the United States. In May 2014, one of the market scenes achieved an auction record of ₤15,000 at the Africa Now Auction in London. Another, Market Queens, was top of auction at the Terra Kulture Mydrim Gallery’s Lagos Art Auction 2016. And his Market Profile (2013) is part of the illustrious Tiroche DeLeon Collection, Jaffa, Israel.
In Glover’s continuing resolve to capture the tempo of the ever-changing market as he’d promised, Changing Times brings us the familiar bustling market place with the market women, still brightly attired and elegant, but now, striding into the future with their mobile phones. When asked to name his best work, during an interview (tribune.com.ng, 2012), he’d said “I don’t know, I’m still working. Maybe in time, years to come… That will be for posterity to judge, not me.” He’s totally right.
Just as Stettheimer inadvertently recorded the period of cellophane’s popularity, I can’t but wonder if, Glover in Changing Times has captured, for posterity, the dawn of the mobile technology revolution in Africa.