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An African Minute: African Lookbook Shop


Aaron Kohn and Phil Sandick developed The African Lookbook out of a desire to not only provide contemporary African threads online for purchase, but to also build a space for the important narratives behind those creations. Part documentation of African artistry, part online shopping gem, The African Lookbook is garnering attention from folks interested in unique products with a story. OKA contributor Kate Bomz spends "An African Minute" with the shop's co-creator, Aaron Kohn, about his team's new endeavor. 

1. The African Lookbook shop isn't just another online shopping portal for African goods, it has an intellectual twist to it. What compelled you to add a space for oral histories, why is this important to you two?

Phil has an MA in Oral History, and I always obsess over how African artists are represented, so African Lookbook actually started off as a space for oral histories of African creatives. Then we realized people would want to get their hands on the stuff talked about in the interviews, and that we were in a position to help bring those products to market.

In October, we’re co-presenting an academic paper at the American Popular Culture Association annual meeting that problematizes this particular project: both the challenges of doing oral histories with African creatives and the challenges of curating an online shop of cool African stuff. We’re trying to take ourselves seriously...but not too seriously.

2. How did you two link up?

Phil headed to Bostwana to work at a secondary/high school (Maru-a-Pula) in Botswana after he graduated from college. In 2008, I headed there as an exchange student. Phil had a bunch of South African art books and magazines laying around, and a propensity for talking to strangers. We’ve been working together on stuff ever since.

3. We love how vibrant the Lookbook is, What other Africa-related creative collaborations have you done thus far?

We’ve both done various things in Africa - freelancing for NGOs, research, exhibitions - but we were constantly distracted by the artists we’d meet and read about. Virtually all of the various projects and papers we’ve done together have either been our own creative output or about the creative output of others.

4. What is the most amazing item in your shop, in your opinion?

All of the lines are different in their own awesome ways. If we had to pick one, though, it would probably be the Babatunde Pith Helmet (pictured below), which is a playful but firm appropriation of one of the main symbols of African colonialism. Even the “African” fabrics that Babatunde uses were really imported by Europeans...from Java, one of their other colonies.

5. What should we look out for in the coming weeks?

More oral histories! We’ve got almost ten that are in the transcription and editing process. Also, more products will be in stock as soon as boxes arrive from South Africa. We’re playing around with some large-scale collaboration ideas, but we need to see what our designers/artists think before we spill the beans.

Shop the African Lookbook here.

Check out our previous African Minute with photographer Martin Kharumwa here.

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Artwork: Barthélémy Toguo Lockdown Selfportrait 10, 2020. Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co

1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair Goes to Paris in 2021

The longstanding celebration of African art will be hosted by Parisian hot spot Christie's for the first time ever.

In admittedly unideal circumstances, 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair will be touching French soil in 2021. The internationally celebrated art fair devoted to contemporary art from Africa and the African diaspora will be hosted in Paris, France from January 20 - 23. With COVID-19 still having its way around the globe, finding new ways to connect is what it's all about and 1-54 is certainly taking the innovative steps to keep African art alive and well.
In partnership with Christie's, the in-person exhibits will take place at the auction house's city HQ at Avenue Matignon, while 20 international exhibitors will be featured online at Christies.com. And the fun doesn't stop there as the collaboration has brought in new ways to admire the talent from participating galleries from across Africa and Europe. The fair's multi-disciplinary program of talks, screenings, performances, workshops, and readings are set to excite and entice revelers.

Artwork: Delphine Desane Deep Sorrow, 2020. Courtesy Luce Gallery


The tech dependant program, curated by Le 18, a multi-disciplinary art space in Marrakech medina, will see events take place during the Parisian run fair, followed by more throughout February.
This year's 1-54 online will be accessible to global visitors virtually, following the success of the 2019's fair in New York City and London in 2020. In the wake of COVID-19 related regulations and public guidelines, 1-54 in collaboration with Christie's Paris is in compliance with all national regulations, strict sanitary measures, and security.

Artwork: Cristiano Mongovo Murmurantes Acrilico Sobre Tela 190x200cm 2019


1-54 founding director Touria El Glaoui commented, "Whilst we're sad not to be able to go ahead with the fourth edition of 1-54 Marrakech in February as hoped, we are incredibly excited to have the opportunity to be in Paris this January with our first-ever fair on French soil thanks to our dedicated partners Christie's. 1-54's vision has always been to promote vibrant and dynamic contemporary art from a diverse set of African perspectives and bring it to new audiences, and what better way of doing so than to launch an edition somewhere completely new. Thanks to the special Season of African Culture in France, 2021 is already set to be a great year for African art in the country so we are excited to be playing our part and look forward, all being well, to welcoming our French friends to Christie's and many more from around the world to our online fair in January."

Julien Pradels, General Director of Christie's France, said, "Christie's is delighted to announce our second collaboration with 1-54, the Contemporary African Art Fair, following a successful edition in London this October. Paris, with its strong links to the continent, is a perfect place for such a project and the additional context of the delayed Saison Africa 2020 makes this partnership all the more special. We hope this collaboration will prove a meaningful platform for the vibrant African art scene and we are confident that collectors will be as enthusiastic to see the works presented, as we are."


Artwork: Kwesi Botchway Metamorphose in July, 2020. Courtesy of the artist and Gallery 1957


Here's a list of participating galleries to be on the lookout for:

Galleries

31 PROJECT (Paris, France)
50 Golborne (London, United Kingdom)
Dominique Fiat (Paris, France)
Galerie 127 (Marrakech, Morocco)
Galerie Anne de Villepoix (Paris, France)
Galerie Cécile Fakhoury (Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire/ Dakar, Senegal)
Galerie Eric Dupont (Paris, France)
Galerie Lelong & Co. (Paris, France / New York, USA)
Galerie Nathalie Obadia (Paris, France / Brussels, Belgium)
Galleria Continua (Beijing, China / Havana, Cuba / Les Moulins, France / San Gimignano, Italy / Rome, Italy)
Gallery 1957 (Accra, Ghana / London, United Kingdom)
Loft Art Gallery (Casablanca, Morocco)

Luce Gallery (Turin, Italy)
MAGNIN-A (Paris, France)
Nil Gallery (Paris, France)
POLARTICS (Lagos, Nigeria)
SEPTIEME Gallery (Paris, France)
This is Not a White Cube (Luanda, Angola) THK Gallery (Cape Town, South Africa) Wilde (Geneva, Switzerland)

For more info visit 1-54

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