Out of Africa

The first Contemporary African Art Fair, 1:54, opens in London

With Frieze week comes inevitable (and usually welcome) surprises. This year sees the first-ever Contemporary African Art Fair at Somerset House, 1:54, which runs from October 16 to 20. One of a number of current African-art-related initiatives, 1:54 refers to the 54 countries on the continent and will showcase 15 galleries – from Abidjan and Nigeria, as well as London, Berlin and Seattle – presenting over 70 emerging and established artists from the African art scene.

Image: Courtesy of ArtCo Gallery

Founded by Touria El Glaoui, daughter of the celebrated Moroccan artist Hassan El Glaoui, the fair will feature designs by Ghanaian-born British architect David Adjaye, winner of the 2013 RIBA International Award, while artists include Edson Chagas (Found Not Taken, fourth picture, €7,260, from A Pallazo Gallery), whose work was displayed in the first pavilion of the Republic of Angola at the 2013 Venice Biennale (and won a Golden Lion, also a first for Angola). Meschac Gaba, from Benin, whose Museum of Contemporary African Art installation was recently acquired by Tate, will also have a presence (Fela Kuti, first picture, €18,000, from In Situ Gallery), as will: Aboudia, from the Ivory Coast, whose work features in many important international collections, including the Saatchi Gallery (Untitled, third picture, £11,000, from Galerie Cecile Fakhoury); Sokari Douglas Camp, a Nigerian-born British artist who was shortlisted in 2003 for Trafalgar Square’s Fourth Plinth (Paisley King and Queen, second picture, £17,760, from ArtCo Gallery); and Sammy Baloji, from the Democratic Republic of Congo, whose work won two awards at the African Photography Encounters exhibition in Bamako in 2007.

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Also opening in tune with Frieze is the autumn exhibition at Tiwani Contemporary, a young contemporary African art gallery based in Fitzrovia. Tiwani was founded in 2011 and focuses primarily on artists based in Nigeria and its diaspora. This year Njideka Akunyili and Simone Leigh will be featured in I Always Face you Even When it Seems Otherwise, from Friday October 11 to Saturday December 14, an exhibition curated by Bisi Silva. Akunyili’s paintings focus on life in contemporary Nigeria, while Leigh explores black-female subjectivity in carefully crafted ceramic objects.

Image: © Aboudia 2013 – Courtesy Galerie Cecile Fakhoury

And finally, yet another gallery specialising in contemporary African art is Jack Bell in St James’s, which specialises in contemporary artists from sub-Saharan Africa and holds eight exhibitions a year. Painting the Hot Town will run from Friday October 11 to Saturday November 9, and will exhibit work by Boris Nzebo, from Port-Gentil, Gabon.

Image: Courtesy Edson Chagas, A Palazzo Gallery

First picture: Fela Kuti by Meschac Gaba from the Perruque Mava series, 2010-2011 (124cm x 20cm x 26cm), €18,000, from In Situ Gallery. Second picture: Paisley King and Queen by Sokari Douglas Camp, £17,760, from ArtCo Gallery. Third picture: Untitled by Aboudia, mixed media on canvas (400cm x 200cm), £11,000, from Galerie Cecile Fakhoury. Fourth picture: Found not Taken by Edson Chagas, C-Print, 2009 (120cm x 80cm), €7,260, from A Palazzo Gallery.

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