Seydou Keïta Photographer


Born c. 1921, Bamako, Mali
Died in 2001, Paris, France

Seydou Keïta’s photographs eloquently portray Bamako society during its era of transition from a cosmopolitan French colony to an independent capital. Initially trained by his father to be a carpenter, Keïta’s career as a photographer was launched in 1935 by an uncle who gave him his first camera, a Kodak Brownie Flash, which he had purchased during a trip to Senegal. As a teenager Keïta mastered the technical challenges of shooting and printing; he later purchased a large-format camera. The larger format not only offered an exceptional degree of resolution, it also made it possible for Keïta to make high quality contact prints without the aid of an enlarger. In 1948 he opened his own studio in Bamako and he quickly built up a successful business. Whether photographing single individuals, families, or professional associations,

Keïta balanced a strict sense of formality with a remarkable level of intimacy with his subjects. Like many professional photographers, he furnished his studio with numerous props, from backdrops and costumes, to Vespas and luxury cars. He would renew these props every few years, which later allowed him to establish a chronology for his work. Keïta commented on his studio practice, “It’s easy to take a photo, but what really made a difference was that I always knew how to find the right position, and I was never wrong. Their head slightly turned, a serious face, the position of the hands . . . I was capable of making someone look really good.”

Keïta went to exceptional lengths to bring out the beauty of his subjects and the brilliant patterns of his backdrops proved a particularly effective foil. He worked intuitively, reinventing portrait photography through his search for extreme precision. In 1962 the newly installed Socialist government made Keïta its official photographer; shortly thereafter he closed down his studio, although he remained active until his retirement in 1977. His archive of over 10,000 negatives was gradually brought to light in the early 1990s; Keïta has since achieved international recognition. Inventive and highly modern, his emphasis on the essential components of portrait photography—light, subject, framing—firmly establishes Keïta among the twentieth-century masters of the genre.



Feb. 22 2020 – March 31th, 2020

“Untitled: Seydou Keïta” | in collaboration with MACAAL, Throughout the Medina, Marrakech, Morocco

2018 – 2019

“Seydou Keïta” | Instituto Moreira Salles, Brazil (11/08/ 2018 – 01/27/ 2019)

Rio do Janeiro, Brazil (April 14th, 2018 – July 29th, 2018)

Sao Paulo, Brazil (April 6th, 2018 – June 20th, 2018)


Art Genève – Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Switzerland

“Seydou Keïta” FOAM – Photography Museum Amsterdam, The Netherlands (06/04 – 06/20)

“Beyond Borders: Global Africa” – University of Michigan Museum of Art, USA (08/11/18 – 11/25/18)


“Seydou Keïta”, Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris, France


« Seydou Keïta », Grand Palais, Paris, France


“Seydou Keïta” : From Jean Pigozzi’s Collection, Moscow House of Photography, Moscow, Russia


“Seydou Keïta”, Beautiful Like That, Jack Bell Gallery, London, UK

2008 – 2009

“Seydou Keïta”, Tate Modern, Level 5, April 2008 – April 2009, London, UK


“Seydou Keïta”, John Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco, USA

“Seydou Keïta”, Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin, Ireland

“Seydou Keïta” – The Image King of Africa”, Sean Kelly Gallery, New York, USA


“Mali Portraits by Seydou Keïta”, The William Bennington Museum of Art, The University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut, USA


“Seydou Keïta: Portraits”, Grany Selwyne Fine Art, Beverly Hills, California, USA


“Flash Afrique”, Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna, Austria

Düsseldorf Cultural Forum, Düsseldorf, Germany

“Seydou Keïta”, Sean Kelly Gallery, New York, USA

“Seydou Keïta: Portraits from Mali”, Presentation House Gallery, North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada


PhotoEspana 99, Madrid, Spain

1998 – 1999

“Seydou Keïta”, Saint Louis Museum of Art, Saint Louis, Missouri, USA

1st Lebanese Biennale of Photography, Digital Pictures and Film: Seydou Keïta presented by the Fondation Cartier, Lebanon


“Seydou Keïta, Gagosian Gallery, New York, NY, travelling to Gagosian Gallery, Beverly Hills, California, USA

“Seydou Keïta”, Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA, USA


“Seydou Keïta”, Minneapolis Institute of Art Minneapolis, USA

Seydou Keita, Photographer: Portraits from Bamako, Mali (1950-1960)

National Museum for African Art, Smithsonian Institute, Washington D.C, USA

March 27, 1996 – July 28,


“Seydou Keïta”, Fruit Market Gallery, Edinburgh, UK

“Self Evident”, The Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, UK


“Seydou Keïta”, travelling exhibition :

Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain, Paris, France

Ginza art’s space – Shiseido, Tokyo, Japan



Art-Dubai (March.29th-Apr.3rd), Galerie Nathalie Obadia

HERITAGE: Carte Blanche à Omar Victor Diop, Galerie Magnin-A, Paris, France


Le tour du jour en quatre-vingts mondes – CAPC – Musée d’Art Contemporain – Bordeaux – France

Through an African Lens: Sub-Saharan Photography explores a variety of artistic styles and expression from the 1950s to the present. MFA Houston, February 27–November 8, 2020

1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, Marrakech – Galerie Nathalie Obadia – 02/20-23/2020

LA Photo, Danziger Galery, LA, USA (01/30 – 02/02)


“Trésors de l’islam en Afrique”, Musée Mohamed VI d’art moderne et contemporain, Rabat, Morocco, (10/17/2019-30/03/2020)

Photo London, UK, Galerie Nathalie Obadia – 16-19/05/2019

1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, NY – Danziger Gallery – 21-24/02/2019

1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, Marrakech – Galerie Nathalie Obadia – 3-5/05/2019


“Studio Africa – Photographic archives from West Africa and Central Africa” – Photographies de la Collection Jean Pigozzi – Salle d’exposition du quai Antoine- Ier Monaco (10/18/18 – 11/20/18)

Festival Photo La Gacilly-Baden, Baden, Austria (06/08/18 to 09/30/18)


“On aime l’art…!! agnès b.”, Grand Arles Express, Collection Lambert en Avignon, France, (07/06/17 to 11/05/17)

« I love Africa », Festival Photo La Gacilly, Morbihan, Bretagne, France (06/03/17 to 09/30/17)

“The Insiders, Selected Works (1989 -2009) from the contemporary  African Art Collection of Jean Pigozzi”, Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris, France (04/26/17 to 09/04/17)

“Autophoto: de 1900 à nos jours”, Fondation Cartier Paris, France (04/20/17 to 09/24/17)

“Trésors de l’Islam en Afrique, De Tombouctou à Zanzibar”, Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris France, (04/13/17 to 07/30/17)


“African Portraits: Omar Victor Diop, Seydou Keïta, Aida Muluneh, Malick Sidibé & J.D. ‘Okhaï Ojeikere”. HackelBury Gallery, London, UK (10/06/16 to 11/19/16)

“Making Africa – A Continent of Contemporary Design”, CCCB, Barcelona, Spain

2015 – 2016

“In and Out of the Studio: Photographic. Portraits from West Africa”, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA

Après Eden- La collection Walther, La Maison Rouge, Paris, France. (10/17 /2017 – 01/17/2016)

2014 – 2015

“Look at Me!”, Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

“Luminós/C/ity.Ordinary Joy”: From the Pigozzi Contemporary African Art Collection, Ethelbert Cooper Gallery of African & African American Art, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA


“WHITE : Photography, Art, Design, Fashion, Film”, Nederlands Fotomuseum, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

“Malian Portrait Photography”, Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, The Dorsky Alice and Horace Chandler Gallery and North Gallery, New Paltz, NY, USA

“Keïta, Ojeikere, Sidibé”, 11 Columbia, Monaco

“Bamako Photo in Paris”, Pavillon Carré de Baudouin, Paris, France


“Six Yards Guaranteed Dutch Design”, Museum voor Moderne Kunst Arnhem, The Netherlands

“Who, What, Wear. Selections from the Permanent Collection” – Studio Museum Harlem – New York, USA

“Africa/Africa”, Centre d’art contemporain, Meymac, France


“Seydou Keïta, Frédéric Bruly Bouabré”, Galeria Kewenig, Palma de Mallorca, Spain

« Artur Walther Collection », Paris Photo, Grand Palais, Paris, France

“August Sander und Seydou Keita: Portraiture and Social Identity”, Walther Collection Project Space, New York, USA


“Contemporary African Photography from the Walther Collection – Events of the Self: Portraiture and Social Identity”, Neu-Ulm, Germany

“African Stories”, Marrakech Art Fair, Marrakech, Morocco

“África. Objetos y Sujetos”, El Centro Cultural Cajastur Palacio Revillagigedo, Gijon, Spain

Africa Rising, 1 rue du Pont Neuf Louis Vuitton – Edun, Paris, France


“Sander’s Children Figurative Photography In the Tradition of August Sander”, Danziger Gallery, New York

“Mujeres en plural”, Fundación Canal, Madrid

“head room”, Museum of Contemporary Art, Toronto, Canada

“Becoming: Photographs From The Wedge Collection”, Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, MI, USA

“People, Spirits & Ghosts: Portrait”, Galerie Nouvelles Images, The Hague, The Netherlands

“REAL. Fotografien aus der Sammlung der DZ-Bahnk”, Stäfel Museum, Frankfurt, Germany

“Last Implicaciones de la Imagem (The implications of image)”, Museo Universitario de Ciencias y Arte (MUCA Roma), Mexico City, Mexico

“Far from Home”, North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC, USA


“Why Africa? – La Collezione Pigozzi”, Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli, Turin, Italy


“100% Africa”, Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain – 12 Oct – 18 fév. 2007

“Vive l’Afrique “, Galérie du Jour – Agnès b. Tokyo – Japan

“About Africa, part one”. Fifty One Fine Art Photography, Antwerp, Belgium

2005 – 2006

“Arts of Africa”, travelling exhibition:

Grimaldi Forum, Monaco, France

Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of African Art, Washington DC, USA


“African Art Now”: Masterpieces from the Jean Pigozzi Collection, Museum of Fine Art Houston, Houston, USA

“A hundred years of children”, (travelling exhibition)

* The Bunkamura Museum of Art, Tokyo, Japan

* Granship, Shizuoka, Japan

* The Niigata Bandaijima Art Museum, Niigata, Japan

“Collection Remixed”. Bronx Museum of Arts, Bronx, NY, USA

“Contact: 9th Annual Toronto Photography Festival”. Alliance Française, Toronto, Toronto, Canada

“Corporate Culture”. The Fleming Collection, London, UK


“Fifty One celebrates four years”. Fifty One Fine Art Photography, Antwerp, Belgium

“Je m’installe aux abattoirs”, La collection d’art contemporain d’agnès b. Les Abattoirs, Toulouse, France

“AIM 24: Portraits and Places”. Bronx Museum of Art, Bronx, New York, USA

“Image and Identity: Portraits by Philip Kwame Apagya, Samuel Fosso, Seydou Keïta and Malick Sidibé”. The Sheldon Art Galleries, Saint Louis, Missouri, USA

“Faces in the Crowd: Images of Modern Life from Manet to Today”. Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, UK

“Contemporary Photography from the Harn Museum Collection” (Part II). Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art, Gainesville, Florida, USA

2003 – 2004

“Village Global ” Années 60 » – travelling exhibition:

* 2nd October 2003 – 18th January 2004 : Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal, Montreal – Canada

* 19th February 2004 – 23rd May 2004 : Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, USA

” Go Johnny Go” ! Kunsthallewien, Vienna, Austria


” Les Ateliers des désirs”, Centre culturel français de Fribourg, Fribourg-en-Brisgau, Swizterland

” Patchworking “, Produzentengalerie, Hambourg, Germany

” Fables de l’identité ” : Œuvres de la collection NSM Vie / ABN AMRO. Centre national de la photographie, Paris, France

” Portraits of Pride: Seydou Keïta, Malick Sidibé and Samuel Fosso”, Moderna Museet c/o Enkehuset, Stockholm, Sweden. Norskt Fotomuseum, Oslo, Norway

2002 – 2003

” Alter Ego” , (travelling exhibition)

* 20th June – 31 October 2002, Mundaneum Museum, Mons, Belgium

* 17 January – 23rd March 2003, Hotel de Sully, Paris, France


“Face Time”. Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, Atlanta. USA

“Childhood – Collection of the National Fund of Modern Art”, Paris. Maison moscovite de la photographie, Moscow, Russia

2001 – 2003

“You look beautiful like that: The Portrait of Photographs of Seydou Keïta and Malick Sidibé”. Travelling exhibition :

* Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, Massachusetts, MA, USA

* National Portrait Gallery, London, UK

* Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, FL, USA

* UCLA Hammer Museum, University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA

* Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, MA, USA


“The Short Century: Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa”. Travelling exhibition:

* Museum Villa Stuck. Munich, Germany

* Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin, Germany

*MCA, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, USA

*PS1, Contemporary Art Center, New York, NY, USA

“XVI International Video and Multimedia Arts Festival” Musée d’art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris


“Voilà – Le monde dans la tête”, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris – MAM/ ARC, Paris, France

Biennale of Sydney, Sydney, Australia

“Portrait Afrika”: (travelling exhibition) :

*Fotogalerie in der Alten Feuerwache, Mannheim, Germany

*Fotografische Positionen eines Jahrhunderts”, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, Germany


„Kunstwelten im Dialog“, Ludwig Museum, Cologne, Germany

Sao Paulo Biennal, Sao Paulo, Brazil

Moscou 2nd Biennal for photography, Moscow, Russia

“Eye Africa/African Photography 1840-1998”, South African National Art Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa

“Photographie aus Mali, 50er/60er Jahre”, Dany Keller Galerie, Munich, Germany

“Portraits” Yan Pei-Ming & Seydou Keïta, Galerie Jule Kewenig, Frechen, Germany

“2nd Biennale of Photography”, Moscow: Seydou Keïta and Ouka Lele presented by the Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain, Paris, France


Galerie Jule Kewenig, Art Cologne 1997, Cologne, Germany

“Amours”, Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain, Paris

“Big City Artists from Africa”, Serpentine Gallery, London


African Photographers, Guggenheim Museum. New York, USA

“Africaines – 1er Festival de la photographie des 3 continents”, Nantes, France

“Double Vie – Double Vue”, Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain, Mois de la Photo, Paris, France


” Multiple Exposure: the Group Portrait in Photography”, travelling exhibition:

*Serpentine Gallery. London, UK

*The Bruce Museum, Greenwich, Connecticut, USA

* Bayly Art Museum, Charlottesville, Virginia – USA

* Oakville Galleries Oakville, Ontario, Canada

“Rimes et Regards”, Espace Alain Afflelou, Paris, France

“Counter Cultures”, Nederlands Foto Instituut, Rotterdam, The Netherlands


Premières Rencontres Photographiques de Bamako – Bamako, Mali


“Troisièmes Rencontres Photographiques de Normandie”, Rouen, France Festival “Images of Africa”, Copenhagen, Denmark

“Africa Explores: 20th Century African Art”. Espace lyonnais d’art contemporain, Lyon, France

“Images of Africa” | Festival, Copenhagen, Denmark

“Rencontres Internationales de la photographie – Seydou Keïta (projection)” | Théâtre Antique

Arles, France


Africa Explores: 20th Century African Art. The Center for African Art and the New Museum for Contemporary Art, New York, USA



Finestre sull’ Arte, N°10 – Arte Antica E Contemporanea Giugno Luglio Agosto – Italy. pp.146-159

Février/Mars/Avril : Exit Imagen Y Culutura, N° 81 – Negritud/Blackness – Author: Rosa Olivares – Published by Producciones de Arte Y Pensamiento, Madrid, Spain. Pp. 78-87


Embodying relation – Art Photography in Mali – Moore, Allsion – Duke University Press, Durham, North Carolina


Black & White – Issue 141 – October 2020 – Author: Larry Lytle – Roos Periodicals Inc. Novato, California.

Contemporary African Art, Sidney Littlefield Kasfir, Collection World of Art (2nd Edition), Thames&Hudson, London


Seydou Keïta, Instituto Moreira Salles, Sao Paulo. Exhibition catalogue


The Insiders, Selected Works (1989 -2009) from the contemporary  African Art Collection of Jean Pigozzi, (04/26/17 to 09/04/17). Éditions Dilecta, Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris, France. Exhibition catalogue.

Autophoto: de 1900 à nos jours. Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain Paris – Editions Xavier Barral, Paris. p. 66, 67. Exhibition catalogue

Trésors de l’Islam en Afrique. De Tombouctou à Zanzibar. SilvanaEditoriale – Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris. Exhibition catalogue.

I love Africa, Festival Photo La Gacilly. Exhibition catalogue


Blanco, José, A., Imaginez, Le Français Sans Frontières, Vista Higher Learning, Inc. p.171.

Bloch, Judy, Stein Suzanne, Views on the Collection, exhibition catalogue, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art


Angier, Roswell, Train Your Gaze: A practical and theoretical introduction to portrait photography, Second Edition, Bloomsbury Publishing, p. 155

Côté Paris, N°37, February-March, 2015, p. 38-40.

Amelie Klein, Making Africa – A Continent of Contemporary Design, Vitra Design Museum. Exhibition catalogue, p. 136-137

Irwin, Kimberly, Surface Design for Fabric, Bloomsbury p. 69.


Kirkham, Pat and Weber Susan, History of Design: Decorative Arts and Material Culture, 1400-2000, New York: Bard Graduate Center, Yale University Press, 2014 p. 548.

Durden, Mark, Photography Today, London: Phaïdon Press, Ltd., 2014, p. 89.

Thomas, Nicholas, Body Art, London: Thames & Hudson, Ltd., 2014, p. 135.

Bindman, David and Gates, Jr., Henry Louis, Dalton, Karen, The Image of the Black in Western Art – The Twentieth Century: The Rise of Black Artists, Londo : Belknap Harvard, 2014, p. 248.

Apostrophe, Français 5é, Hachette Livre International, p. 26.

Mémoires Vives, 30 ans. Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Fondation Cartier, Paris

Photography Today, Mark Durden, Phaidon Press, London

Art History in the Wake of the Global Turn, edited by Jill H. Casid and Aruna D’Souza, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Yale University Press, p.65.

The History of Photograpy: Volume 4, The Contemporary Era, Walter Guadagnini, Skira, Milan

Body Art, Nicholas Thomas, Thames & Hudson, London

How to Write about Contemporary Art, Gilda Williams, Thames & Hudson, London

Travel & See: Black Diaspora Art Practices since the 1980s, Kobena Mercer, Duke University Press

African Arts, Winter 2014, Volume 47, Number 4, p. 37-39, 41


The African Diaspora: A history through Culture, Patrick Manning, Columbia University Press.

Peffer, John and Cameron, Elisabeth L., Portaiture & Photograpy in Africa, John Peffer and Elisabeth L. Cameron, Indiana University Press.


Seydou Keïta. Photographs, Bamako, Mali 1948 – 1963, Edited by Steidldangin


Contemporary African Photography from the Walther Collection. Events of the Self: Portraiture and Social Identity, Edited by Okwui Enwezor.


Why Africa? Published by Electa & Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli. Exhibition catalogue.


100% Africa. Exhibition catalogue. Published by TF Editores & FMGB Guggenheim Bilbao.


Living with Art. Seventh Edition by Mark Getlein. Published by McGraw Hill.

Arts of Africa: The Contemporary Collection of Jean Pigozzi. Exhibition catalogue. Published by Skira Edition & Grimaldi Forum Monaco

African Art Now: Masterpieces from the Jean Pigozzi Collection. Exhibition catalogue. Published by Merrell.


Go Johnny Go! Exhibition catalogue published by Steidl, Kunsthallwien.


Carnets de Voyage T2, by Titouan Lamazou. Gallimard Editions.


“I ka nyi tan”. Seydou Keïta fotografi a Bamako. Castelvecchi Arte. Museo Hendrik Christian Andersen.

YOU LOOK BEAUTIFUL LIKE THAT. The portrait photographs of Seydou Keïta – Malick Sidibé. Michelle Lamunière. Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge. Yale University Press, New Haven and London. Text in English.


FLASH AFRIQUE. Fotografie aus Westafrika. Kunsthalle Wien, Steidl. Bilingual text: German, English.


Seydou Keïta

Monographic Book – 287 pages, 207 reproductions. Published by SCALO, Edited by André Magnin. Book, French or English version.

The Parkett Serie with Contemporary Artists N°49. Bamako : Full Dress Parade by Robert Storr p. 24-34. Bilingual texts: English, German.


MATADOR N°2. Portfolio, Spain.


Self Evident. Seydou Keïta. The Ikon Gallery. Birmingham, UK.

Seydou Keïta. Photopoche. Ed. National Center of Photography, Paris.


Seydou Keïta – 1949 to 1962 Exhibition catalogue texts in French by André Magnin. Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain, Paris.