Our pick of five artists to look
out for at London’s contemporary African art fair


Following the success of its New York debut earlier this year, this week sees the third instalment of 1:54 London, which looks set to be its most full-bodied showcase to date. Founded by Touria El Glaoui, the contemporary African art fair returns to the glorious setting of Somerset House and features 38 exhibitors representing more than 150 artists. The fair will be accompanied by FORUM, a schedule of talks, discussions and screenings curated by Koyo Kouoh that this year focus on north Africa. There’s also a specially designed lounge area by Hassan Hajjaj and Kapwani Kiwanga’s Flower’s for Africa, an exhibition celebrating African independence.

Here we select five must-see artists at 1:54:

Untitled I, Cocktail Series, 2011
Fibre pigment print - 69.56 x 84.1 cm

Namsa Leuba - Art Twenty One
Namsa Leuba studies the depiction of African identity through the western gaze. The characters within her world mimic an opulent form of stoicism that conjures up mighty creatures frozen within a somewhat artificial wild. Leuba, who is Swiss/Guinean, relocates the investigation of her cultural heritage and surroundings to a place in front of the camera, allowing her photographs to blur the previously distinct lines that once separated anthropology, fashion, documentary and performance.

Leuba has also contributed to publications including i-D, Numéro, KALEIDOSCOPE, Interview, Wallpaper*, Vice magazine and the British Journal of Photography. Recent exhibitions include That Art Fair Cape Town, LagosPhoto, Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival Toronto, Daegu Photo Biennale South Korea and Haute Africa Belgium.

Image courtesy of Art Twenty One

Zangbèto, 2009
Archival digital print

Jean-Claude Moschetti - Mariane Ibrahim Gallery
Jean-Claude Moschetti’s photographic practice seeks to survey the sacred and resemble the spiritual world that shadows our existence in the natural. The French photographer is a voodoo initiate of the Egungun cult in Benin and has journeyed expansively throughout West Africa to produce visual studies on masquerades, ancestor worship, the war on counterfeit drugs and the African oil industry. Moschetti’s Egunguns series is a reprisal of the occult and a portrayal of the illogical. The artist’s works urge us to reassess our understandings of the real and unreal.

Based between Bain-de-Bretagne, France, and Porto-Novo, Benin, Moschetti has recently exhibited at AFRICA: Architecture, Culture and Identity at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Copenhagen and Disguise: Masks and Global African Art at the Seattle Art Museum.

Image courtesy of Mariane Ibrahim Gallery

What’s Wrong Dear Jane, 2014
Installation, performance and sound

Miriam Syowia Kyambi - ARTLabAfrica
The Nairobi-based multi-media artist repositions perceptions and memory while utilising the politics of history and notions of the body for her own artistic ends. Her installations and performances reassess female consciousness as she interrogates gender and conjugal roles. Her work is intricately layered with characters awaiting eruption, restructuring exchanges with colonialism, violence, sexuality and the body in art.

Syowia Kyambi was recently included in a touring exhibition Body Talk: Feminism, Sexuality and the Body in the Work of Six African Women Artists curated by Koyo Kouoh in Brussels. She has also been the recipient of several awards and grants including the Art in Global Health Grant funded by the Wellcome Trust, UNESCO among others.

Image courtesy of ARTLabAfrica

Nuclear Destiny I, 2015
Acrylic on canvas, 195 x 130 cm

Barthélémy Toguo - Galerie LeLong
Barthélémy Toguo’s practice is an exposé of the arbitrariness of national borders. Though in reality we are seeped deep in the irremovable connectedness of global communication and accelerated human mobility, the limitations of travel and human movement are increasingly definite. The Cameroonian/French artist’s drawings, paintings, sculptures, photography and performance works convey the affects of transport and mobility on the individual’s emotions, sense of personhood, independence and identity.

Tuguo has contributed to exhibitions at the Museum of the Civilisations of Europe and the Mediterranean (MuCEM) in Marseille, the Palais de Tokyo in Paris and at this year’s 56th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale.

Image courtesy of Galerie Lelong & Bandjoun Station. Photo Fabrice Gibert

Rouge a levres, 2015
Acrylic & oil pastel on canvas - 150 x 94 cm

Aboudia - Jack Bell Gallery and Galerie Cécile Fakhoury
Aboudia’s work reflects on the aggression, uncertainty and chaos of life in the lawlessness of war. The Ivorian artist’s hallucinogenic, ghost-like murals remember Abidjan overcome by post-election violence and conflict in 2011. He retreated to his basement studio and formed painterly reactions to military force, political instability and bloodshed. Further inspection of his works leaves one feeling mesmerised by multiple layers of figures; haunting words and inscriptions. These menacing landscapes are guarded by soldiers, skulls and obscure details that continue to reveal and conceal themselves.

Aboudia has taken part in both installments of Pangea: New Art from Africa & Latin America Art at Saatchi Gallery London in 2014 and 2015 as well as In All Cases, A Collection Selection at the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno. His works have also been acquired by major collections worldwide including the Contemporary African Art Collection (CAAC) of Jean Piggozi in Geneva and the Frank Cohen collection in London and Manchester.

Image courtesy of Jack Bell Gallery

1:54 London is 15 – 18 October at Somerset House

Words Emmanuel Balogun

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