Photos

Lightbox: Seydou Keita

In our first installment of our new series on African photography, Lightbox, we look at the life and work of master portrait photographer Seydou Keita.


Seydou Keita grew up in an era of  great change in Bamako, Mali in the 1920s. The railroad was being extended from Dakar on the Atlantic, connecting Bamako to the rest of the world. The city was growing and modernizing at an unprecedented rate. Seydou Keita began as a cabinetmaker in the 1930s. In 1935, Keita's uncle brought him his first camera, a Kodak Brownie. He instantly became obsessed with photography. By the 1940s, Keita’s detail-oriented cabinetry mentality had carried over to photos. He then moved up to a 6"x9" then 9"x12" negative box camera.  The larger the negative, the higher the resolution Keita would work with.

With proceeds from a small studio, by 1949 he finally purchased a 13"x18" camera, creating a larger negative than the prints his customers could afford. Instead of enlarging his negatives, he would shrink them onto prints, making his photo prints extremely detailed and sharp.  Besides the high resolution of his prints, Keita always closed down the aperture to increase the depth of field (making everything in the image crystal clear), likening his work to Ansel Adams and other members of the "f.64 Club."

While Dakar was considered the Paris of Africa in the 1950s, Bamako wanted terribly to be Africa's Milan.

Most of Seydou Keita's subjects were first generation Bamakoise, and they would send photos home to show their families their successful lives in the city. Bamako developed its own fashions and the growing African bourgeoisie used portraits to confirm their embrace of modernity–cars, radios, watches (the ultimate symbol of cosmopolitanism being time consciousness). In nearly every single photograph, Keita’s subjects do their best to affirm themselves as Bamakoise.

Looking through Seydou Keita’s work, one must try to discern how well each of his subjects faced this challenge of cultural affirmation. Is their fashion of the latest style (the Dutch wax prints and the Indonesian batiks were constantly changing)? Is their hairstyle too much like the ones in the villages? Does the subject hold their own in the presence of a big car or a radio?

Keita's photos are now in galleries around the world, often printed life-size, thanks to his large negatives. Though the reproductions might not be true to the accuracy of Keita's work, and often revels the poor preservation of some of the negatives, one can still see the obvious obsession with detail of a cabinet maker and enjoy the innovative images of 1950s Bamako.

Art
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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