The UK iteration of the 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair opened to the public yesterday at London’s Somerset House, bringing together 42 galleries from across Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and North America to show the work of more than 130 artists, with eight special projects to top it off. Here, we’ve rounded up the best of what’s on view at the fifth edition of the fair.
Pascale Marthine Tayou
1:54 Special Projects
Cameroonian artist Pascale Marthine Tayou—who has already achieved major recognition for his solo exhibition at the Serpentine Galleries in 2015—returns to London with a site-specific installation taking over the Fountain Court at Somerset House, greeting fair-goers as they enter the grounds. Summer Surprise is an imposing work referencing togunas, public structures found in Mali that, according to the fair, “facilitate debate and intellectual exchange.”
WHATIFTHEWORLD, South Africa
In his archival ink-jet prints, titled Z$100-Trillion and US$ 1, Zimbabwe-born artist Dan Halter hand-weaves prints to create large-scale images imitating US and Zimbabwean currencies. The Zimbabwean note, marked at 100-trillion—and equaling the $1 value of the other bill—shows a bill used when inflation was at its height. Consequently, the depicted bill appears to be in pristine condition, as it is rarely used because it is essentially worthless. The US dollar, on the other hand, is well-worn from use, despite its $1 value.
Each work will set you back between £8,000-£8,500 ($10,450-$11,100), and comes in editions of three—though their hand-woven background renders them somewhat unique.
AGorgi Gallery, Tunisia
In her presentation at Tunisia’s Agorgi Gallery, Paris-based Aicha Snoussi has mounted a wall installation of ink drawings sketched in found school copybooks, the delicate pages of which the artist compares to skin. Snoussi—who was originally trained as an engraver—typically draws large-scale, site-specific murals directly onto gallery and museum walls. She switches her tune here with fragile sketchbooks and visceral etchings of abstract shapes that take on the quality of internal organs. The intention is to bring viewers back to their own schooldays, in which we learn about anatomy and the body, to create what the artist calls “an anti-encyclopedia encyclopedia.”
Officine dell’Immagine, Milan
In her ongoing photographic series, titled “Border,” French-Algerian artist Halide Boughriet produces portraits of refugees living in camps outside of Paris in an aim to give back a sense of individual identity to those who feel stripped of one. The sitters are free to choose their position and props, giving them some agency over the shape or persona they wish to embody or convey to the world, and the portraits end up feeling both intimate and unnerving as well as urgent in the contemporary climate. Read more