The fifth edition of 1:54 Contemporary Art fair opened to high acclaim in Somerset House. It was the biggest to date with over 130 artists, 42 galleries, including 17 based on the African continent itself. The sheer scale of the selection enabled the fair to showcase the depth and breath of African creative capabilities.
The mention of contemporary Art, usually evokes paintings, sculptures and maybe some installations. Specifically where African Art is concerned, there is an expectation of unusual materials being used. All this remains true but I decided to turn my gaze on an art form that is often neglected: Textile Art. The 2017 edition of the contemporary art fair had put on a feast for the eyes, of the textile lover that I am.
- Mary Sibande’s Allegory of Growth, 2013
For their first participation in the fair, Gallery Momo featured the imposing sculpture by Mary Sibande, Allegory of Growth. Her trademark human size sculptures often in blue (the color of the domestic worker’s uniform) and purple (references the 1989 uprising) examine the question of black female identity in a post apartheid South Africa.
- Abdoulaye Konate’s Composition verte pour Seychelles, 2017
Abdoulaye Konate is a Malian Artist. He is renowned for using dyed cotton strips as brushstrokes to create large-scale “paintings” made of fabric. One of his latest artworks was on display at the fair with the Primo Marella Gallery.
- Meschac Gaba’s Wig Sculpture
Sitting at the interconnection of Fashion Hairstyle, Architecture and Art, are the series of wigs by Meschac Gaba. The Benin-born artist started this series in the early 2000’s by recreating the architecture of the American political landscape. He has since extended that to other major cities. In opting to use such a culturally charged symbol as African braids to represent western political buildings, Meschal Gaba explores the complex relationship between culture and architecture and the globalisation phenomenon.
- Ayan Farah’s Abstract Art
Before studying painting, Ayan Farah studied fashion. The influence of the latter is evident in her material of choice: Textile. She creates abstract paintings by stitching together various layers of dyed textile. The resulting painting is testament to the strange alchemy that operates in both her studio and outside where she works in symbiosis with nature. First she uses minerals and natural pigments to dye the textiles and then exposes them to the elements to obtain a certain gradation of color. Each painting is a striking sight and tells a story of transformation with nature.
Let’s be honest, you will come across various other highlights of 1:54. Some more exhaustive and more authoritative than this post…. But for the African textile lover that I am, 1:54 remains a place to discover a great variety of African Artists who use that particular medium to express themselves…. And I am looking forward not only to their 6th edition in London next year but to their first edition on African soil in Marrakech in February. Stay tuned.
Did you go to 1:54 Art fair? Let me know what was your favorite piece of Art. I would love to hear from you.