From 27 January to 8 June 2024, the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam will be presenting the first solo exhibition of the artist AiRich. Her work primarily consists of Afrofuturistic portrait series that celebrate a colourful and empowering world and a future full of extravagant Black people. In the portraits, in which the artist herself also features, she emphasises the importance of rediscovering and redefining Black identity. AiRich puts a futuristic and otherworldly spin on Black identity, drawing on pop culture, fashion, music, science fiction and mythology.
A ten Doro
In her work, she seeks to unite African history and contemporary culture stemming from Black identity and to use this as a basis for a more holistic view of the future. In the exhibition Afrofuturistic Visions, AiRich creates an alternative world for the Black community. It is an inspiring journey through time – through various photographic series produced between 2013 and 2023, complemented by new works and a space dedicated to behind-the-scenes material , sources of inspiration and self-portraits. A ten Doro, the time has come!
Several photo series introduce the visitor to powerful beings whose facial expressions, body art, clothing and physical features celebrate, above all, their own ideals of beauty within the Black community. In the series Ancestry in progress I (2015), for example, she creates portraits of alien-like ancestors who have ‘landed’ on Earth from her fictional planet. For Amazing Grace, a tribute to the icon Grace Jones (2017), AiRich collaborated with fashion stylist Stefhanie Blokland to honour the then 69-year-old Grace Jones, who, as a multi-talented Black woman, had a huge impact on fashion and pop culture with her fierce personality, style and performances. For She’s one with the universe (2017), AiRich collaborated with US-based digital artist Dogon Krigga to produce a series of self-portraits in the form of collages. Other series, such as Mutable species (2021) and Your Mother (2023), feature aliens covered in painted patterns and a representation of a symbolic primordial mother of her planet.
AiRich, ZAGWÉ I: Energy of guidance, strength, power, 2015
AiRich, GRACIOUS, 2017
New work: Den Doro (2024)
AiRich is also creating a new series especially for the exhibition, Den Doro (2024). Unlike her previous series – in which she reflects on Black identity and Afrofuturist futures in a more general sense – this new work is her first exploration of her own personal Afro-Surinamese roots. Taking the traditional koto as her starting point, she transforms this Surinamese costume into a futuristic garment in which she cloaks her mythical super-beings.
In addition to her independent works, AiRich regularly works on commission – and two of these works feature at the exhibition. The stately portrait she made of actor Emmanuel Ohene Boafo in 2021 as the winner of the Louis d’Or Award is on display in a ‘golden room’. The exhibition also features Bloody Gold – Homage to the Colonies (2021), a visual installation commissioned by Amsterdam Museum & CBK Zuidoost depicting her reaction to an original panel of the Golden Coach (a coach owned and used by the Dutch royal family) glorifying the horrors of slavery.
About the artist
AiRich (pronounced ‘I-Rich’ in English) is a Surinamese visual artist who lives and works in Amsterdam. In her work she uses a mixture of photography, collage techniques, body painting, styling and digital editing. Her work has been shown in various exhibitions over the past decade, including at the Dutch Photo Museum (2022), the Amsterdam Museum (2021) and the Centraal Museum in Utrecht (2021). Her work has also been featured in several campaigns for festivals and events. AiRich is inspired by photographers such as David LaChapelle and Erwin Olaf and artists such as Erykah Badu, Travis Scott and Missy Elliot. The exhibition AiRich: Afrofuturistic Visions is the first time that all of her series from the previous decade will be shown together.
The exhibition AiRich: Afrofuturistic Visions is part of the museum’s New Art initiative – an experimental programme that aims to broaden our view of contemporary art, which is often too narrowly defined by a select group of museums, galleries and contemporary art institutions. By creating a space in the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam’s programme for young artists who have so far mainly been active in other networks outside museum settings, we want to give a platform in particular to art forms that have emerged from popular culture and/or non-Western art traditions. Although AiRich has already made her first forays into the museum world through group exhibitions, this is the first time her work has been given prominence through a solo exhibition.
AiRich, BACK TO THE FUTURE, 2019
With thanks to:
The municipality of Schiedam and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science
Image above: AiRich, Your Mother III, 2023, photograph, collage, 150 x 118,6 cm. Model: Hazel Ashanti, hairstyling: Yara Forster