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Biography of Michael BETHE-SéLASSIé

Ethiopia > Arts : Michael BETHE-SéLASSIé

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Born on 15/02/1951 (format : day/month/year)

Biography :

Michael bethe-Sélassié (b. in 1951) is an Ethiopian sculptor.

Mickael Bethe Selassie was born February 15,1951. He has been living and working in Paris since 1974. He went to France earlier to study chemistry and physics. However, fate had a different career reserved for him. The call came to him at the age of thirty, after having travelled around the world and consumed masses of history and anthropology books. Catholic by birth, his quest for spirituality draws him into Zen and Yoga disciplines. Enchanted while painting his living space walls, he is suddenly lured into the land of colours and the magic of art. Since then Mickael Bethe Selassie has been a full-time artist devoted primarily to the creation of polychrome sculptures in papier mâché.
The exhibition of Mickael Bethe Selassie that was opened at Asni Gallery on the 20th of March this year consists of sculptures, reliefs and paintings. There are twenty pieces exhibited. The gallery space has been transformed into a strange universe. In every room, it seems like there is an explosion of vibrant colours and intricate forms.
The warrior, protruding from the wall and its supporting board, as though impatient to come out and defend his homeland and national flag is facing the tall sculpture of a double-sided Sentinel standing on multiple strange faces and figures of children coming out of cavities. It suggests a protective atmosphere. This is appropriate because the adjacent room is occupied by a realm of children where a peaceful double-sided miniature Goddess is placed in the centre to watch over them. The children in the reliefs are playing In the Park or are moving around The Playground. In a painting, some are standing happily for A family Portrait with their parents. The atmosphere is bursting with joyful colours. It is a serene setting where purity seems to reign.
The room that hosts the animal world is dominated by the Magic Creature. It is standing in the middle of the room with its face turned towards the viewer. The polychrome animal seems to scrutinize whoever is looking at it. The expression on its face gives weight to its posture. The beast seems to assert its living space around it. The onlooker becomes conscious of the space claimed by the animal and the space occupied by the viewer.
A series of paintings entitled Hassab (contemplation) I, II, etc. are displayed in the remaining rooms. They are of small format charged with strong and vibrant colours. All the paintings represent peaceful human figures with intriguing poised facial expressions and postures. The eyes stare at the onlooker as though they are trying to see through you but at the same time they seem to be inviting the viewer to see through them too.
Mickael Bethe Selassie has developed a unique form of expression that defies attempts to classify his works as belonging to specific heritages. There are those who would like to see his works as purely African and sometimes more specifically Ethiopian and others who want to consider it as simply belonging to “primitive art”. However, for Mickael Bethe Selassie art and man are both universal and have their own uniqueness and individuality.

Mickael Bethe Selassie has been exhibiting his works since 1985 in museums and galleries around the world. His sculptures have been featured at group and solo shows in more than fifteen countries including Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Madagascar, Namibia, the Netherlands, Spain, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland, Tunisia, UK and USA.
The Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington D.C. has recently acquired one of Mickael Bethe Selassie’s sculptures for its permanent collection. Some of his other works are found in museums such as the De Stadshof Museum and Van Reekum Museum in the Netherlands. His monumental sculptures are also represented in the Sculpture Garden of Suwon and the UN Memorial Park in Pusan, South Korea. The Fond Municipal de l’Art Contemporain of the city of Paris also owns one of the artist’s masterpieces.

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Last update : 12/20/2011

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