Ousmane Sow

Ousmane Sow was born on 10th October 1935 in Dakar, Senegal. After the death of his father, Sow Sr in 1956, he left Dakar to study in France, from where he obtained a diploma in physiotherapy. He returned to Senegal after it became independent in 1960 and started a practice in physiotherapy. He later went back to France and practiced physiotherapy there, however he returned to Senegal permanently in 1978 and devoted himself fulltime to Art, specifically sculptures of larger-than-life statues of people and groups of people. Ousmane Sow died on 1st December 2016 aged 81 years old.

His interest in sculpture was evident from a young age. In his teens he explored different formulas with glues and melted materials to build figurines. Sow’s sculptures boldly confront stereotypes, representing the body without qualms. They carry a message of tolerance and humanity. 

Ousmane Sow was admitted to France’s Academy of Fine Arts (the Académie des Beaux-Arts) on 11th December 2013. He was the first African to enter the Academy.

Sow had many international exhibitions, including at documenta IX in Kassel in 1992, at Palazzo Grassi in Venice during the Biennale of 1995, and on the Pont des Arts in Paris in 1999.

In the 2008 Prince Claus Awards, on the theme of Culture and the human body, he was one of the eleven laureates. His was for his impressive sculptures of the human body, for his fresh perspective on the body that challenges the international world of figurative art, and for his positive influence on the younger generations of African artists.

On 11 April 2012 Sow was elected a Membre Associé Etranger (“foreign associate member”) of the Académie des Beaux-Arts of the Institut de France, replacing Andrew Wyeth becoming the first black person to have been elected to membership

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