The End of the Beginning

image for The End of the Beginning
Label Text
This image depicts the burning of Axum and Lalibela, two historically significant sites in Ethiopia. Here, the artist-seer prefigures the Ethiopian revolution of 1974 and illustrates the overturning of church and imperial hegemony in modern Ethiopia. The white bird in the center, poised as a phoenix, is witness to and survivor of the destruction, while the spirit figure on the right represents the past hoping to escape the violent present. Skunder has deconstructed spatial order to convey a sense of collision and shock, a metaphor for revolution and change.
Alexander "Skunder" Boghossian was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1937. In 1955 he was awarded an Ethiopian government scholarship to study in Europe. He spent two years in London where he attended St. Martins School, Central School and the Slade School of Fine Art. He extended his sojourn in Europe another nine years as a student and teacher at the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere in Paris, and as a student and teacher in the atelier of Alberto Giacometti. In 1966 Boghossian returned to Ethiopia where he taught at the Fine Arts School in Addis Ababa until 1969.
He made his first trip to the United States in 1970 and, except for a trip home when his father died in 1972, he spent the remainer of his life in the US. The 1974 revolution in Ethiopia prevented Boghossian from returning to Ethiopia. He lived in the USA as a permanent resident, and artist in exile. Boghossian taught at Atlanta University, Hampton University and from 1974 to 2003 at Howard University. As a practicing artist, Boghossian's paintings have been shown in numerous solo and group exhibitions in Ethiopia, the Caribbean, Europe and North and South America.
Horizontal oil on canvas paitning with a winged masked figure on the proper left, a long low lizard like animal in the lower proper right and a whitish bird in the center. the background is suggestive of menhirs or buildings and there is a wide range of colors.
Exhibition History
Histórias Afro-Atlânticas, Museu de Arte de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil, June 28-October 21, 2018
African Cosmos: Stellar Arts, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., June 20-December 9, 2012; Newark Museum, February 26-August 11, 2013; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, August 23-November 30, 2014; Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University, Atlanta, January 31-June 21, 2015 (exhibited at Carlos Museum)
Continuity and Change: Three Generations of Ethiopian Artists, Harn Museum of Art, Gainesville, FL, January 23-May 6, 2007; Diggs Gallery at Winston-Salem State University, Winston Salem, NC, May 26-December 26, 2007
Ethiopian Passages: Dialogues in the Diaspora, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., May 3-December 7, 2003
Transatlantic Dialogue: Contemporary Art In and Out of Africa, Tampa Museum of Art, December 10, 2000-January 28, 2001
Published References
Biasio, Elizabeth. 1999. "Zerihun Yetmgeta and Ethiopian World Art." Ethiopia: Traditions of Creativity, ed. by Silverman, Raymond A. East Lansing: Michigan State University Museum in association with the University of Washington Press, Seattle, p. 102, no. 5.8.
Harney, Elizabeth. 2003. Ethiopian Passages: Contemporary Art from the Diaspora. London: Philip Wilson; Washington, D.C.: National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, pp. 68-69, pl. 10.
Toledo, To´mas. 2018. Histórias afro-atlânticas. São Paulo: Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand, MASP: Instituto Tomie Ohtake. illustrated.
Credit Line
Museum purchase
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National Museum of African Art Collection
Object number
Alexander "Skunder" Boghossian, 1937-2003, born Ethiopia
Oil on canvas
Framed: 122.3 × 169.2 × 3.8 cm (48 3/16 × 66 5/8 × 1 1/2 in.)
National Museum of African Art