Arts + Culture

Our 5 Favorite Highlights of 1:54 Contemporary African Fair London 2016

If you're in London, you need to check out these must-see 5 highlights at 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair.

The fourth edition of 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair brings together over 40 exhibitors from 18 countries to showcase a diverse range of contemporary work by leading artists from the continent and diaspora. Named after the 54 countries of Africa, the ambitious fair will shine a spotlight on African art at Somerset House, the majestic Tudor palace overlooking the Thames.


Following a well-attended symposium at New York’s Armory Show earlier this year, 1:54 is poised for strong sales. With over a third of the galleries at this year’s fair exhibiting for the first time, collectors and art enthusiasts at 1:54 will enjoy a three-day celebration of African artists at the vanguard of their disciplines.

FORUM, the fair’s extensive series of talks and events, will once again run alongside the fair, and will bring together artists, exhibitors, and cultural critics to explore convergences across artistic and cultural production.

Below, we share our favorite highlights of this weekend’s 1:54 London:

1. “Black and Blue: The Invisible Man and the Masque of Blackness,” Zak Ové

As you enter Somerset House’s stately courtyard, you’ll find Irish-Trinidadian artist Zak Ové’s army of 40 two meter high black graphite statues standing guard amongst the foundations. The son of acclaimed filmmaker Horace Ové, Zak Ové originally trained in film and photography, before branching into sculpture following a residency at Caribbean Contemporary Art in 2007.

The “invisible men” standing guard both recall Ralph Ellison’s classic and harken back to the famed Yoruba masks that mark the aesthetic of the cool. The installation, also a commentary on power, beauty, and identity, references a play written by Ben Jonson and enacted by Anne of Denmark and her court ladies, painted in blackface, in the courtyard of Whitehall Palace in 1605. The play reflected a shift from earlier appreciation of black beauty to a preference for lighter skin in the 17th century. In reclaiming the name of the play and situating his army in the neoclassical palace, Ové affirms that black lives matter.

2. The First UK solo exhibition of Malian photographer Malick Sidibe (1936 – 2016)

The fair’s crown jewel, although not for sale, is “Malick Sidibé: The Eye of Modern Mali,” an exhibition presented by 1:54 in collaboration with MAGNIN-A. Located in the main hall, the stunning 45 black-and-white photographs celebrate the jubilance of post-independence Mali. Known as the “eye of Bamako,” the late artist gained a formidable international following as one of the fathers of African photography, subverting narratives through spontaneous images of Bamakois dancing and modernist studio portraits of the city’s youth.

3. Nando’s Exhibition in Collaboration with Yellowwoods Art

As you enjoy your delicious peri-peri chicken on your next trip to Nando’s, stop to look at the art. The South African chain, which owns over 1,000 restaurants in 30 countries, is also home of the world’s largest private collection of Southern African art. Founded in 1987, Nando’s has been working with artists since 2002 through a close partnership with Cape Town-based Yellowwoods Art, a firm specializing in creating opportunities for budding South African talent. At 1:54, Nando’s and Yellowwoods present a few of the artists that feature in their UK collection. Stop by to see works by Regi Bardavid, Lizette Chirrime, Pat Mautloa, and Maurice Mbikayi.

4. “PASSAGE,” Alexandra Karakashian

At this year’s fair, Alexandra Karakashian will create a site-specific installation entitled “PASSAGE.” The piece, much like much of Karakashian’s practice, draws from her family’s experience escaping the Armenian genocide and migrating through Africa before settling in Johannesburg. Through oil and paper designs, Karakashian reflects on issues at the forefront of exile, migration, and the environment, issues at the heart of today’s Euro-African relations.

5. 1:54 Lounge

The 1:54 Lounge and Bookshop are not only an opportunity to relax and reflect, but to see how designers are pushing the boundaries of functional art. This year, designer Ifeanyi Oganwu (Expand Design Ltd.), visual artist Phoebe Boswell, and textile design firm Toghal have collaborated to create forty unique stools and cushions. A modernist take on the traditional stools common across West Africa, the contemporary work, entitled “Pedestal + Duniake,” also celebrates East African culture by drawing inspiration from the traditional Swahili kanga. In addition to the interior spaces of the 1:54 lounge, Toghal has also collaborated with designer Lulu Kitololo to create a collection of cushions that will be positioned on a number of Somerset House’s terraces. Draw some inspiration from the bold designs of the collection, which is up for sale during and following the event.

1:54 Contemporary African Fair takes place Thursday, October 6 through Sunday, October 9, at Somerset House in London. Tickets are available for purchase online via Eventbrite. Keep up with 1:54 on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and their official website.

Arts + Culture
Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga, Untitled, 2019, Acrylic and oil on canvas, 200 x 200 cm, Courtesy October Gallery.

1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair NY Marks 5 Years Making Manhattan's Industria Its New Home

The leading international art fair dedicated to amplifying contemporary art from diverse African perspectives returns to New York this May—here's what you need to know.

This year's New York edition of 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair is around the corner as it continues to present contemporary art from diverse African perspectives—this time at a new home.

"Our fifth anniversary in New York comes at a moment of tremendous change and excitement for the fair," says Touria El Glaoui, 1-54's Founding Director, in a statement. "While we've enjoyed four years of incredible support from Pioneer Works in Brooklyn, the fair's move to the West Village responds to the desires of both our galleries and our visitors and will greatly expand the opportunities for audiences to discover the very best contemporary African art in the heart of Manhattan."

Taking place from May 3 to May 5 with a preview day on May 2, 1-54 will mark its fifth edition at Industria in Manhattan's West Village. Twenty-four galleries from Belgium, Côte d'Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Ghana, Kenya, Martinique, Morocco, Nigeria, Portugal, Senegal, South Africa,Turkey, the UK and the US are set to display work from over 65 artists. In keeping with the fair's mission to embrace a diverse and global mix of galleries that are dedicated to supporting and amplifying African artists from around the world, 12 new galleries are joining the fold with five solo exhibitions in tow.

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Posting from a private jet, as she was on her way to New York before heading to West Africa, Cardi B shared a video of herself rapping and dancing along to the unreleased remix.

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The DMV-based artist speaks with OkayAfrica about the themes in her work, collaborating with major brands, and how her Ethiopian heritage informs her work.

DMV-based visual artist Tenbeete Solomon also known as Trap Bob is a buzzing illustrator using her knack for colorful animation to convey both the "humor and struggle of everyday life."

The artist, who is also the Creative Director of the creative agency GIRLAAA has been the visual force behind several major online movements. Her works have appeared in campaigns for Giphy, Girls Who Code, Missy Elliott, Elizabeth Warren, Apple, Refinery 29 and Pabst Blue Ribbon (her design was one of the winners of the beer company's annual art can contest and is currently being displayed on millions of cans nationwide). With each striking illustration, the artist brings her skillful use of color and storytelling to the forefront.

Her catalog also includes fun, exuberant graphics that depict celebrities and important moments in Black popular culture. Her "Girls In Power" pays homage to iconic women of color in a range of industries with illustrated portraits. It includes festive portraits of Beyoncé, Oprah, Serena Williams and Michelle Obama to name a few.

Trap Bob is currently embarking on an art tour throughout December, which sees her unveiling murals and recent works for Pabst Blue Ribbon in her hometown of DC and during Art Basel in Miami. You can see her tour dates here.

We caught up with the illustrator via email, to learn more about the themes in her work and how her Ethiopian heritage informs her illustrations. Read it below and see more of Trap Bob's works underneath.

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