London Hosts A 3rd Season For The 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair

Yassine Khaled, 'Prince Biscuit', 2013, Resin sculpture, 190 x 200 x 250 cm, Courtesy of GVCC
Yassine Khaled, ‘Prince Biscuit’, 2013, Resin sculpture, 190 x 200 x 250 cm, Courtesy of GVCC

This month London plays host not only to Frieze but also to the third London edition of the 1:54 Contemporary African Art fair.  1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair, Europe’s leading art fair dedicated to Contemporary African Art, will return to London the 15th to 18th October 2015.

A reference to fifty-four countries that constitute the African continent, the title of 1:54 establishes the parameters of the fair’s ethos: as a platform that strives to represent multiplicity and showcase the diversity of Contemporary African art and cultural production on an international stage.

Initiated by Touria El Glaoui in 2013, this October marks its third edition at Somerset House, having returned from a successful New York debut earlier this year.

Somerset House, London. Image courtesy of 154 Sébastien Gracco de Lay
Somerset House, London. Image courtesy of 154 Sébastien Gracco de Lay

The third London edition is designed by award-winning architectural and design studio RA Projects, led by architect Rashid Ali. It is 1:54’s biggest showcase yet with 38 exhibitors in total presenting over 150 African and African diasporan artists across the East, South and West Wings of Somerset House.

Exhibitors for London 2015 hail from a multitude of geographies including South Africa, Morocco, Angola, Tunisia, Benin, Kenya, Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Zimbabwe, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Sweden, the UK, and the USA.

1:54 is accompanied by an educational and artistic program curated by Koyo Kouoh and includes lectures, film screenings and panel debates featuring leading international curators, artists and art experts.

Installation View, Kara Walker, 'Go to Hell or Atlanta, Whichever Comes First', on view at Victoria Miro Gallery from 1 October to 7 November 2015
Installation View, Kara Walker, ‘Go to Hell or Atlanta, Whichever Comes First’, on view at Victoria Miro Gallery from 1 October to 7 November 2015

Since the inaugural fair in 2013, the number of galleries specializing in African art has grown as has the number of people coming to the fair, with over 10,000 visitors in 2014.

A new comer to the 1:54 London art fair and the London art scene is Tyburn Gallery located in Marylebone. Describing themselves as a gallery dedicated to international contemporary art, with Africa as point of departure, their inaugural show Broken English features a number of African artists representing a diverse practice. The exhibition, which is on until the 28th of October presents the work of artists such as provocative Tunisian artist Mouna Karray, Zimbabwean artists Moffat Takadiwa, Dan Halter and Michele Mathison. The show also presents a strong contingent of diverse work from South Africa by artists Bridget Baker, Mohau Modikaseng and Rowan Smith. Broken English also gives you a chance to see work by two artists who will be exhibited at 1:54: Athi Patra-Ruga and Joël Andrianomearisoa.

Not too far from Tyburn Gallery, a recently opened show at Tiwani Contemporary on Little Portland Street in Fitzrovia is Constellations by British-Ethiopian artist Theo Eshetu. Tiwani opened in 2011, and since then it has exhibited artists such as Kapwani Kiwangaand ruby onyiechi amanze who will be part of 1:54 this year, as well as Franciso Vidal with a forthcoming show at Tiwani entitled Workshop from the 13th of November.

Artist Theo-Eshetu
Artist Theo-Eshetu

In his first solo exhibition in the UK, Eshetu’s show will provide insight into the artist’s complex practice and incorporation of different media, such as TV, film and Video. Constellations weaves together influences such as his Ethiopian heritage and his own way of conveying his fragmented memory of the country, having lived there until the age of 5. Constellations will run until the 31st of October.

Newer London based galleries include not only Tiwani Contemporary but also Jack Bell Gallery. Located in Mason’s Yard in Mayfair, Jack Bell Gallery opened in February 2010. Jack Bell represent the following artists who will be exhibited at the fair, namely: Aboudia, Boris Nzebo,Karo Akpokiere, Steve Bandoma, Gonçalo Mabunda, father and son duo Leonce Raphael Agbojdelou and Joseph Moise Agbodjelou, as well as the renowned Haimdou Maiga. From the 13th of October to the 6th of November, the gallery will present Black History Hotel, a show by Boris Nzebo.

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Vigo Gallery, located on Dering Street in Mayfair is also worth mentioning for those interested in visiting exhibitions of contemporary African art in London. Vigo gallery represents Zak Ové and Hassan Hajjaj, in addition to El-Salahi, and will be presenting all three at 1:54.

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