This year at the third edition of 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair in London, 14 galleries are from Africa out of 38 exhibitors. This remarkable achievement is the result of dedication on the part of those working to build local art scenes in African countries, as well as the aim of 1:54 to engage in a conversation with cultural production and infrastructure on the continent.
Among the galleries that will be coming to 1:54, a number have previously exhibited at the fair and will be returning to Somerset House. Returning galleries based in Africa are representative of the diversity in African artistic production that 1:54 aims to convey with galleries coming from South Africa, Nigeria, Côte D’Ivoire and Tunisia. Afronova from Johannesburg will be exhibiting the work of artists such as Billie Zangewa, who was also exhibited at the first edition of 1:54 in New York in May 2015, in addition to Lawrence Lemaoana and Mauro Pinto.
Equally presenting engaging work by an impressive list of artists is ARTLab Africa from Nairobi, returning to the fair with Peterson Kamwathi, Miriam Syowia Kyambi, James Muriuki, as well as bringing a new artist, Mirkokeb Berhanu. Representing acclaimed artists such as Gor Soudan and Paul Onditi, ARTLab Africa undoubtedly creates a platform to grow the relationship between cultural and artistic practitioners in Nairobi with collectors and museums not only in East Africa, but internationally as well.
In addition to galleries from East and Southern Africa, Lagos based Art Twenty One, returns to the fair exhibiting artists and the unparalleled Paa Joe, exhibited in collaboration with his son Jacob Tetteh-Ashong. Other galleries from West Africa include Galerie Cécile Fakhoury from Abidjan presenting celebrated artists such as Aboudia, Cheikh Ndiaye, François-Xavier Gbré, Yeanzi and Yo-Yo Gonthier West Africa also gives this year’s edition of the fair two new participants: Fondation Donwahi from Abidjan and Galerie MAM from Doula, Cameroon. Established in 2008 and 1995 respectively, these two galleries both contribute to sharing knowledge and artistic exchange in local communities. While Fondation Donwahi will exhibit work by emerging artists such as Mimi Cherono Ng’ok, Galerie Mam comes to the fair with Siaka Traoré Soppo.
While from the Maghreb region, Salma Feriani Gallery from Tunis returns to the third edition of 1:54 with engaging art by artists such as Malek Gnaoui and Nidhal Chamekh, who was selected for the International Exhibition All The World’s Futures at the 56th Venice Biennale.
First-time exhibiting galleries include three South African galleries, with GALLERY AOP and CIRCA Gallery coming from Johannesburg and Johans Boreman Fine Art from Cape Town. The galleries new to the fair represent the growing interest in African art with infrastructure growing both within Africa and additionally in London as CIRCA Gallery will embark on an encouraging endeavour to grow their global platform as they open a branch of CIRCA in London in 2016.
Another gallery exhibiting at 1:54 for the first time is Harare based KooVha Gallery, which was established in 2013 to offer support to emerging and established artists in Zimbabwe and beyond. By providing a platform for multiple artistic interventions ranging from exhibitions to public installations, and dynamic collaborations with disciplines such as urban planning and even engineering, KooVha challenges, widens and transcends the borders of artistic production.
Other galleries new to the fair are from vibrant and growing cosmopolitan cities such as Casablanca and Luanda. Moroccan gallery GVCC comes to 1:54 for the first time with work by artists such as Zahrin Kahlo and Yassine Khaled. Additionally, Luanda based Tamar Golan Gallery comes to the fair with a standing for cultivating relationships and collaborations with emerging artists. As a gallery established and positioned within the flourishing art scene in Luanda, they are central to showcasing and importantly documenting, archiving works of artists such as Adalberto Ferreira (Toy Boy), Paulo Kapelo and Fransisco Van-Dúnem (Van).
Initiated and invited by the fair, Special Projects at 1:54 will be the result of a collaborative effort by the fair and a number of artists and art centres based in Africa to create different perspectives. They include a special project executed by Qubeka Bead Studio, which is based in Cape Town, South Africa. Founded in 2004, Qubeka was formed by three artisans and businesswomen: Neliswa Skiti, Nolubabalu Kanku and Mandisa Masina. Described as a fine art beading studio, the work Qubeka produces is reliant on translation and collaboration as the trio work with a variety of artists to interpret creative ideas, drawings, and paintings into beaded artworks. The role of exchange and collaboration with the artists and their vision is central to the success to the success of transposing artistic techniques such as brushstrokes to beadwork. This is made possible through the support of Yellowoods Art, which facilitates and fosters collaboration with the artists and the artisans. Benin based Fondation Zinsou will additionally be promoting an interactive application as a Special Project at 1:54. The application – ‘WAKPON Museum Project – Off the Wall’ – bridges the two worlds of art and technology to create a virtual museum though using augmented reality technology.