1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair returns to London

Faith Ringgold leads the creative charge from 42 galleries, 17 countries and 130 artists

Tightrope Continuous Rotation Servos, $90,000-$110,000, by Elias Sime
Tightrope Continuous Rotation Servos, $90,000-$110,000, by Elias Sime

Interest in contemporary African art continues apace, with collectors offered a feast for the eyes at the fifth London edition of 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair. Running from October 5-8 at Somerset House, it will showcase 42 leading galleries specialising in contemporary African art from 17 countries across Europe, Africa, the Middle East and North America. A major (non-selling) solo exhibition by the British-Moroccan artist Hassan Hajjaj will also be on show, exhibiting until January 2018, plus a courtyard installation by Cameroonian artist Pascale Marthine Tayou and a sound installation by Emeka Ogboh, commissioned by Modern Forms.

Hide Little Children, $300,000, from the American People Series #15, by Faith Ringgold
Hide Little Children, $300,000, from the American People Series #15, by Faith Ringgold

“Every year at 1:54 London we are amazed by the variety of works for sale, ranging from paintings, photography and sculpture to artworks made from textiles,” says Touria El Glaoui, founding director of 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair.

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Her highlights include “Two major works [shown at the James Cohan Gallery] by Ethiopian artist Elias Sime, who uses reclaimed e-waste such as old phones, Soviet-era transistors, computer motherboards, brightly coloured electrical wires and sections of plastic keyboards that have been discarded across the African continent”. And one of the top-priced works will be a politically charged painting from the American People Series by eminent civil rights activist and African-American artist Faith Ringgold on sale at the Pippy Houldsworth Gallery.

Sculpture in the style of a traditional African mask, £5,000, by Gonçalo Mabunda
Sculpture in the style of a traditional African mask, £5,000, by Gonçalo Mabunda

The Elias Sime Tightrope: Continuous Rotation Servos is made up of reclaimed electrical components and wire on a panel: created this year it is for sale at $90,000-$110,000 and is part of an ongoing series referring to the balance between technology and tradition, humanity and the environment.

Untitled, £5,000, by Oumar Ly
Untitled, £5,000, by Oumar Ly

And it is the first time that Faith Ringgold’s American People Series #15: Hide Little Children ($300,000), dating from 1964, and which features five children hiding in a dense forest depicted with vibrant angular brushstrokes, has been seen in the UK – and coincides with Tate Modern’s Soul of a Nation show, which also showcases Ringgold’s work.

Cosmic Intercourse With Everything, $3,000, by Jackie Karuti
Cosmic Intercourse With Everything, $3,000, by Jackie Karuti

Among the other exhibitors this year are 18 galleries from Africa, with the work of more than 130 emerging and established African and African diaspora artists on display, working in a wide variety of mediums and from a spread of geographical backgrounds comprising 32 countries.

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Another work of interest is at (S)ITOR – the digital print Untitled (£5,000) showing the face of a young girl, by the Senegal artist Oumar Ly, who died last year. One of thousands of portraits Ly made of his fellow countrymen, this one is on forex and acrylic mounted in an aluminium box. There’s also a sculpture (£5,000) at the Jack Bell Gallery by Mozambique artist Gonçalo Mabunda in the style of a traditional African mask, but made of decommissioned arms, one of the artist’s works giving anthropomorphic form to weaponry. And finally, the Circle Art Gallery is presenting the Kenyan artist Jackie Karuti’s Cosmic Intercourse With Everything ($3,000), a mixed media on paper depicting a universe peopled with heads, satellites and observation posts. A fitting image for our times.

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