artnet news: 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair Will be Bigger and Better in 2016

Sarah Cascone, Tuesday, February 9, 2016

 1:54 New York 2015 at Pioneer Works, Brooklyn. Photo: © Katrina Sorrentino, courtesy 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair.

1:54 New York 2015 at Pioneer Works, Brooklyn.
Photo: © Katrina Sorrentino, courtesy 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair.

"We came in as a pop-up last year trying to see if there was a market for us," 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair director Touria El Glaoui told artnet News in a phone interview. Based on 2015's inaugural success, the fair, which will take place at Pioneer Works in Brooklyn from May 6–8, will be even more robust in its second year in New York, with a carefully-curated selection of 17 galleries.

Related: Inaugural Contemporary African Art Fair in Paris Canceled after Paris and Bamako Terror Attacks

In its Brooklyn edition, it can afford to be choosy. Unlike the original London fair, which was founded in 2013 and accepts applications, 1:54 New York is strictly invitation-only. The fair takes its name from the 54 countries in Africa, and does its best to be fully-representative of the continent. To that end, the 60 artists featured in this year's fair hail from an impressive 25 countries.

"We are filling this void in New York, where contemporary African artists are not as well-represented as the rest of the world's artists," said El Glaoui.

 1:54 New York 2015, Pioneer Works, Brooklyn. Photo: © Katrina Sorrentino, courtesy 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair.

1:54 New York 2015, Pioneer Works, Brooklyn.
Photo: © Katrina Sorrentino, courtesy 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair.

Julie Taylor, founder and director of online South African gallery Guns and Rain, sees 1:54 as a sign of positive change. "African art is perhaps 'becoming ordinary,'" she told artnet News in an e-mail. "If 'ordinary' equates to securing the independence, recognition, and respect that African art professionals have long sought, then African contemporary art is certainly much closer to coming of age."

Pioneer Works has offered a slot in its artists residency program to 1:54 artist Omar Victor Diop, whose showing at Paris's Magnin-A gallery was one of the standouts of the 2015 edition, according to El Glaoui. "He's quite an interesting photographer and he has done this amazing series of important Africans in history," she said.

Related: New York Armory Show Announces 2016 Focus on African Art

This year, over half of the roster is new at the fair, with just eight returning galleries from the inaugural New York run. Of the additions, five have previously shown with 1:54 in London, while four, including New York's Richard Taittinger Gallery and Milan's Officine dell'Immagine, have never participated in the fair on either side of the Atlantic.

Although 1:54 purposely varied its New York slate of dealers in order to provide exposure for a new group of artists, at least one gallery isn't back for a reason. Arabella Bennett, founder of Cape Town's Bennett Contemporary blamed "the depreciating South African rand" for her decision not to show in 2016, telling artnet News in a phone conversation that while "we enjoyed ourselves very much… it's a very expensive fair for the number of sales that we made."

Despite its small scale, the fair's international scope is impressive, with galleries from South Africa, Italy, Kenya, Switzerland, the US, France, Côte d'Ivoire, Spain, and the UK. Programming, curated by Koyo Kouoh, of Daka'r RAW Material Company, will include a lecture series and panel discussions.

See the full list of participating galleries and artists below:

Afronova (Johannesburg, South Africa)
ARTLabAfrica (Nairobi, Kenya)
Art Bärtschi & Cie (Geneva, Switzerland)
Axis Gallery (New York, USA)
David Krut Projects (Johannesburg, South Africa & New York, USA)
Galerie Anne De Villepoix (Paris, France)
Galerie Cécile Fakhoury (Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire)
In Situ / Fabienne Leclerc (Paris, France)
Jack Bell Gallery (London, United Kingdom)
Magnin-A (Paris, France)
Mariane Ibrahim Gallery (Seattle, USA)
Officine dell'Immagine (Milan, Italy)
Richard Taittinger Gallery (New York, USA)
Sabrina Amrani Gallery (Madrid, Spain)
(S)ITOR / Sitor Senghor (Paris, France)
Tafeta (London, United Kingdom)

Derrick Adams
Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou
Joseph Moise Agbodjelou
ruby oyinyechi amanze
Emma Amos
Joel Andrianomearisoa
Mustapha Azeroual
Omar Ba
Sammy Baloji
Steve Bandoma
Armand Boua
Nathalie Boutté
Sonia Boyce
Edson Chagas
Jim Chuchu
Endale Desalegn
Safaa Erruas
Theo Eshetu
Em'Kal Eyongakpa
Meschac Gaba
Frances Goodman
Mwangi Hutter
Ayana V. Jackson
William Kentridge
Farah Khelil
Yashua Klos
Lawrence Lemaoana
John Liebenberg
Ndary Lo
Gonçalo Mabunda
Ibrahim Mahama
Hamidou Maiga
Houston Maludi
Abu Bakarr Mansaray
Misheck Masamvu
Vincent Michéa
Fabrice Monteiro
Aida Muluneh
Cheikh Ndiaye
Otobong Nkanga
Boris Nzebo
Uche Okpa-iroha
Babajide Olatunji
Adeniyi Olagunju
Paul Onditi
Zohra Opoku
Athi-Patra Ruga
William Sagna
Kura Shomali
Gor Soudan
Nontsikelelo Veleko
Diane Victor
Béatrice Wanjiku
Graeme Williams
Sue Williamson
Billie Zangewa
Dominique Zinkpé

1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair is on view at Pioneer Works, 159 Pioneer Street, Red Hook, Brooklyn, May 6–8, 2016.

In pictures: Challenging perceptions of Africa through art (BBC)

An exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, northern Spain, aims to show how a new generation of Africans are giving the world a fresh perspective on their continent. Making Africa brings together the work of 120 artists and designers.

Image copyright Omar Victor Diop

Image caption Senegalese photographer Omar Victor Diop's work focuses on the personalities who make up the booming cultural scene in his country. He works with his subjects, like artist Mame-Diarra Niang shown here, to bring out their personalities through the props and the pose.

Image copyright Mario Macilau

Image caption Mozambican photographer Mario Macilau aims to capture the hip youth of his country's capital, Maputo. As well as portraying contemporary fashion the pictures also refer back to the heyday of African studio photography, the exhibition catalogue says.

Image copyright Jeyfous/Oyéjidé

Image caption The work of tailor Ikire Jones is celebrated in this print imagining Nigeria's commercial capital, Lagos, more than six decades in the future. The sharply dressed man in the foreground is described in the catalogue as a tailor's apprentice who wants to make clothes for the citizens of a new Africa.

Image copyright AFP

Image caption Kenyan artist Cyrus Kabiru creates items out of discarded objects. He has made a series of wearable spectacle sculptures to challenge the way we look at things - as a reference to how Africa can often be perceived in a negative light.

Image copyright Bodys Isek Kingelez

Image caption Bodys Isek Kingelez sets out to design futuristic buildings that challenge the way a western city looks. This model - Congolese Red Star - also represents his socialist values and the artist says he wants to create a new world with cities "full of peace, justice and freedom", the exhibition catalogue quotes him as saying.

Image copyright Ojeikere Estate

Image caption The photography of Nigerian JD Okhai Ojeikere highlights the creative ways women wear their hair. He wanted to establish a record of the styles as well as widening their aesthetic appreciation.

Image copyright Pierre-Christophe Gam

Image caption Pierre-Christophe Gam designed the website for singer Taali M. He said he wanted to use the site to transport the viewer to an ancient African kingdom using the French singer, who has Congolese, Chadian and Egyptian roots, as a guide.

Image copyright Wangechi Mutu

Image caption Kenyan Wangechi Mutu's short film The End of Eating Everything is a critique of our consumer society. The film shows a Medusa-like figure - played by singer Santigold - eating a swarm of birds. She eventually implodes, giving birth to numerous female heads, the catalogue says.

Image copyright Malick Sidibe

Image caption Malick Sidibe's photos taken in Mali in the 1960s captures the spirit of the freedom of the time, which some contemporary artists are trying to recreate. This picture, taken in 1963, shows a young couple relaxed about expressing themselves and the way they feel.

Image copyright Adjaye Associates

Image caption Architect David Adjaye was asked to design a new pavilion for the transport hub at Park Station in South Africa's main city, Johannesburg, The pavilion will combine a modern look with references to the historical look of the station.

The Making Africa exhibition is on at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, until 21 February.

artnet Asks: Danda Jaroljmek on Collecting Contemporary and Modern African Art

Danda Jaroljmek, right, with Rose Jepkorir, left, in Circle Art Agency's viewing room. Courtesy of Circle Art Agency.

Danda Jaroljmek wears many hats. She is not only an artist herself, but also an art consultant and, more recently, an auctions director and curator. Living in Kenya since 1997, she and two co-founders started the Circle Art Agency in 2012 to focus on building local and international markets for East African artists. Today, Circle has grown into a thriving institution, offering annual auctions that attract bidders from all over the world.

This year's auction will be held on November 3, 2015, and features contemporary and modern African artists such as Dawit Abebe, Peterson Kamwathi, Jak Katarikawe, and many others. Here, Jaroljmek explains the history of the Circle Art Agency, and why collectors should take notice of the developing East African art scene.

 Tell us about Circle Art Agency, and what makes it unique.
We aren't an auction house, which I know confuses people outside Africa. We are an agency that runs an annual contemporary and modern East African art auction, as well as operating a gallery and acting as arts advisors. As there is so little infrastructure for art here, we are trying to fill some of the gaps and give artists and art collectors alternative platforms for exposure and collecting.

How developed is the auctions market in Africa in general, and in Kenya in particular?
South Africa is very well represented with Bonhams and Christies, as well as Strauss & Co, a South African auction house. Annie Palmer from there came to our first auction in Nairobi and was very helpful, as did Giles Peppiatt from Bonhams from the United Kingdom. ArtHouse Contemporary, run by Kavita Cheleram in Lagos, has been operating for around five years and has made a huge impact in Nigeria.

Circle Art Agency is the only organization hosting an auction in East Africa, and we have had quite a lot of success. Kenyan art collectors have been really responsive, and it has become the most important annual visual art event in Nairobi.


Circle Art Gallery. Courtesy of Circle Art Agency.

What has been the highlight of your career so far? What has surprised you the most?
I guess two things: the huge success of the first Circle Art Agency auction in 2013—which we interpreted as the market being ready for it—and secondly, the joy of opening our beautiful little “white cube" gallery, which fuels my interest in curating along with the positive response we have had to the exhibitions so far.

What is the highest-selling lot you've ever sold?
At auction it was 1.8 million Kenyan shillings (around 18,000 USD) for a Geoffrey Mukasa painting: he was a Ugandan artist working between1980–2000. We also had a private sale of 2 million Kenyan shillings for Mau Mau detention camp, a sculpture dated 1969 by the 94-year-old Kenyan artist Edward Njenga. This is small-scale compared with the rest of the world, but pretty big stuff for us!

Is collecting in Africa geared mostly towards passion, or investment? Who are the most influential African collectors?
Almost entirely passion, though we now have statistics for our collectors on the investment potential of some of the artists we work with. This is very new, and we try to inspire passion first, but can also offer advice on which artists are collectable in East Africa and are receiving interest locally and internationally. Many of our collectors are quite private, but some of our big collectors are Tony Wainaina and Samit and Taran Gehlot.

How do you select most of your consignments? Are you reaching out to clients? Or are they coming to you?
In the beginning it was daunting to find secondary market quality art, so we do also sell directly from the artists, which I know is quite strange in the auction world. Now I am contacted by art collectors from all over the world—South Africa, Australia, Bangkok, USA, UK, and the Netherlands so far in the last three years—as we have had great press coverage and people are managing to find us.

Circle Auction 2014, with auctioneers Dendy Easton and Chilson Wamoja. Courtesy of Circle Art Agency.

When is your next important sale? Why should people come?
The third Circle Modern and Contemporary East African art auction is on November 3 at the Villa Rosa Kempinski Hotel, Nairobi. We have 51 Lots from six countries, both modern and contemporary, primary and secondary market. Many of the lots are rare, and it would be impossible for collectors to find this sort of art—from the 1970s in particular—by themselves. This year we are representing the Emerson Foundation, set up by the late Zanzibari hotelier, Emerson Skeens. We have seven very rare works from the late George Lilanga and Edward Tingatinga and family dating from 1970–80. These works are of interest internationally, and authenticated pieces from these artists are not easy to come by.

The art market is ever more global, and bids are increasingly coming from all corners of the world. Do you see the same happening in Africa?
Absolutely, we have bidders flying in from the UK and the United Arab Emirates and an increasing number of telephone bidders. Not to the same extent as South and West Africa, but we are working hard to raise awareness of the art scene here and encourage more international interest.

You also run a gallery, tell us about your curating philosophy and the artists you represent.
During the first two years of Circle, we did a series of very successful pop-up exhibitions all over Nairobi in interesting locations, but we soon realized that it wasn't sustainable. Each show took months to set up, so we couldn't have enough exhibitions. We opened the gallery this year and have had six really well-received exhibitions. We don't officially represent artists—the market is still too small here and I like to work with a large group of artists for different ideas—but we have loose arrangements with a smaller group of artists that we work with regularly. I am an artist, not a curator, so it has been an exciting and massive learning curve. The most stimulating exhibitions for me have been the group shows with a concept. I realize it fulfills my artistic impulse, almost as if the exhibition is a piece of art that I have made. I like to focus on an unexpected group of artists, mixing emerging and established, and pushing something unusual.

Our launch exhibition was “Concerning the Internal," showing the work of 15 artists, most of whom happened to be women, which is still unusual here. I was very proud of that show. I try to think equally of our audience; it is important to stimulate and educate them, as many of our collectors are quite new to contemporary art and they trust us to guide them. They are very involved with Circle, and we regularly have 300 people at our private viewings.

The 2014 Circle Auction. Courtesy of Circle Art Agency.

Do you collect art yourself? Tell us about your collection.
I do, I move house a lot and live modestly so don't have a lot of space, so I started collecting works on paper. I now have a rather lovely collection of small works by my favorite Kenyan artists.

What advice would you give to our readers who want to learn more about African artists?
Visit all the art fairs and galleries focusing on African art, subscribe to Contemporary And and Art Africa and other online art magazines—and of course artnet News—and make sure when you travel for business or on holiday to do your research and visit us and the other art spaces in Nairobi, and not just go on safari!

Peterson Kamwathi, Paul Onditi, Mirkokeb Berhanu, and Gor Soudan at the 2015 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair in London

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.

BLACK FACE, WHITE MASKS delves into the murky world of the politics of aggressive racialism

SANE’s recent work delves into the murky world of the politics of aggressive racialism (racism), and addresses ‘Africanity’ against the backdrop of post-nationalism.

The title of the show is drawn directly from the first book of Martiniquais critical theorist Frantz Fanon (Black Skins, White Masks, 1952) which looks at negritude (originality) and whiteness (the imposed mask) as signifiers of a wider colonial construct.  In an increasingly marginalized and polarized geo-political global setting, encryptions of Inferiority (colonized people) and superiority (colonizers) are inevitable tools for empires of capital, neo-liberalism and so on.

“Every colonized people– in other words every colonized people in whose soul an inferiority complex has been created by the death and burial of its cultural originality—finds itself face to face with the language of the civilizing nation; that is, with the culture of the mother language.”  Fanon, Black Skins, White Masks (1952)

SANE also addresses coloniality and the politics of black aesthetics where he questions the Western definitions of beauty and the conflicts that globalism presents to beauty in the black context. The Western aesthetic presents our blackness as being too black, and it must therefore be whitened in order for us (blacks) to gain acceptability in the post industrial age.  ‘Commands’ like thesefrom the mass and printed media of ‘mother countries’ are making black women bleach their skins to whiten them and causing them to wear synthetic blonde and red hair pieces, in the process gaining new market opportunities for Western beauty products whilst at the same time furthering the loss of  ‘cultural authenticity’ on the continent.

“The colonized is elevated above his jungle status in proportion to his adoption of the mother country’s cultural standards. He becomes whiter as he renounces his blackness, his jungle.” Fanon, Black Skins, White Masks (1952)

In light of this aggressive ‘disafricanisation’, SANE is aware of the calls from outside to re-de-colonise art spaces in Uganda and the need to seek an embrace with our tribal indigenous identities as forms of push back against colonial agencies. Furthermore there are attempts being made to recapture indigenousness in terms of languages and trials to make them parts of the circuits of communication in academic and intellectual fields including the visual arts. This however appears to be the second wave of decolonization after the aggressive re-colonization that Africa has suffered in the last quarter of the 20th century and into the 21st century due to global ‘market forces’ that have brought in huge waves of Americanized Westernisation, Coca Cola, Walmart, and the supermarkets.  It would seem that corporate business empires are the new forms of global hegemony replacing governments.

All the above notwithstanding, SANE’s work invites us to remember that blackness is no longer simply an identity issue of continental Africanness, and neither is whiteness an issue of Europeanness or Americanity. Just as blackness is now part of the Euro-American cultural equation, we must accept that whiteness is also very much part of the African cultural context too. What then happens to the idea of ‘cultural originality’ in the face of the global hybridization of culture brought about by human movement and settlement, re-movement and re-settlement? Culture however is not static and originality cannot be looked at only in terms of ‘how things used to be’.  Contact with the colonizers for us the colonized has created cultural hybridization which also is to be looked at as authentic. We are black faces, white masks and white faces, black masks! Black masculinity is becoming more feminized and we also will have to deal with the automation of emotionality brought about by interaction with Western made technological products and machines according to Cameroonian philosopher Achille Mbembe.

Sane’s solo exhibition of paintings will still be on show at Afriart Gallery until 30th September 2015.  Afriart is inviting you to come and see his discussion provoking works.