Kapwani Kiwanga

Kapwani Kiwanga: illuminating power structures

Celebrating Deutsche Bank’s 20 years as Global Lead Partner of Frieze art fairs with a series of 20 articles on 20 featured artists.

Based in Paris, Canadian artist Kapwani Kiwanga extends the practice of minimal and conceptual art for the digitised 21st century. Her abstract works often oscillate between image and object, responding to architectural and social spaces.


Born in 1978, the anthropologist and social scientist is now one of the most relevant artists of her generation. In her work, Kiwanga critically reflects on the legacy of modernism and the ideological role of institutions, art, design, and architecture. This is also the case in her work "Counter-Illumination #1" from the Deutsche Bank Collection, which was on view in the 2020 exhibition "Ways of Seeing Abstraction" at Berlin's PalaisPopulaire. 


A white, twisted blind, a bench, a cube composed of different surfaces: transparent black, magenta, orange, a translucent grey, perhaps a pane of smoked glass. You don't know exactly what's in front or behind in this sophisticated arrangement; what's a "picture within a picture”. Then you realise that the whole construction is about seeing, about looking in and looking out, about privacy and publicity.


"Counter-Illumination" is one of the studies for a huge, two-story photographic work conceived for the Dal Grauer Substation, a power substation in Vancouver, as part of the 2020 Capture Photography Festival. Fitting perfectly into the grid of the 1950s-era building's glass and steel façade, the enlarged photograph offered a glimpse that was as intimate as it was utterly constructed – and showed how abysmal the modern vision of public transparency and visibility has become in the age of digital surveillance and manipulation.

About this article series

This article forms part of a special series celebrating Deutsche Bank’s 20 years as Global Lead Partner of Frieze art fairs, taking a closer look at one of 20 artists we have collaborated with and whose work features in the Deutsche Bank Collection.

Deutsche Bank's commitment to art and culture

Deutsche Bank is the Global Lead Partner for Frieze art fairs, with 2023 marking the 20th year of the partnership. As part of its Art & Culture commitment, Deutsche Bank has supported and collected the work of cutting-edge, international artists for more than 40 years. A global leader in corporate art programmes, the bank also runs an Artist of the Year programme, as well as its own cultural centre in Berlin, the PalaisPopulaire. All initiatives are based on the strong belief that engagement with art has a positive impact, not only on clients and staff but also on the communities in which the bank operates. Thus further collaborations such as the Deutsche Bank Frieze Los Angeles Film Award in the United States, The Art of Conversation in Italy, the Frieze x Deutsche Bank Emerging Curators Fellowship in the United Kingdom, and the digital platform Art:LIVE, create access to contemporary art for people all around the world. Discover more here.


Please find more information on Deutsche Bank’s art programme at db.com/art and follow us on Instagram @deutschebankart


Main image: Portrait Kapwani Kiwanga, Courtesy © Bertille Chéret.


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