Paa Joe: Taking It With You

25 November 2010 - 15 January 2011

Jack Bell Gallery is pleased to announce a solo selling exhibition of sculpted coffins by the Ghanaian artist Paa Joe.


The four works in the show are all iconic symbols of local life. The golden African eagle, fish, Air Ghana jet, and Cocoa pod are testament to the vibrancy of West African culture and the ability and imagination of the local artists. Five maquettes by Paa Joe are included to show the scope of his practice.


Blurring the line between art and craft, each work reflects the ambition or the trade of the person for whom it was made. They are not dead things but are instead a manifestation of and indeed an affirmation of life. The works are wholly African and are a contemporary embodiment of traditional tribal burial rituals and art practice. They link back to pre-colonial West African sculpture but also recall the pomp and extravagance of ancient Egyptian royal tombs. In contemporary Western art practice the coffins recall Jeff Koons. They too are kitsch - Paa Joe, like Koons, plays with scale and with a work like the Jet, with material and commercial ostentation.


Paa Joe was born in 1945 in the Akwapim hills north-east of Accra. The foremost sculpted coffin maker of his generation, Paa Joe apprenticed with Kane Kwei – who is credited with beginning the 20th century tradition of figurative coffins. Paa Joe's work is held in museum collections around the world including the British Museum in London. Two of the works from this exhibition pre-sold to museums.