1-54 Art Fair London: My Six Favourite Exhibits – Lee Sharrock 

As 1-54 celebrates its 10th birthday, the first international art fair to focus on modern and contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora return to London’s Somerset House. 1-54 was founded by Touria El Glaoui 10 years ago. There are now three annual editions: in Marrakech, New York and London, with a pop-up Paris edition. The name 1-54 references the 54 countries that make up the continent of Africa. 

Jack Bell Gallery

Jack Bell Gallery

Jack Bell gallery is exhibiting a group show, including a chair made from salvage bullets by Mozambique artist Gonçalo Mabunda and exquisite paintings by Manel Ndoye. Ndoye’s unique painting style merges figurative and abstract art gestures with references to the ecosystems and life of the Lébous coastal communities in his birthplace of Senegal and a ceremonial dance called the Ndawrabine, which mimics the gestures of fishermen.

 Francisco Vidal at  Not the White Cube

Francisco Vidal at Not the White Cube

Get your portrait painted by Francisco Vidal at This is not a White Cube as part of his performance ‘Still Free’. Vidal explains the origins of ‘Still Free’: “In 2020 and 2021, I did a lot of drawings and paintings related to “isolation & social media” and paintings. When I 

Realising that these subjects dealt with the individual bubble space versus an active social space, I decided to do an exercise sitting at the opposite end of the individual experience and isolation. It is a performance that celebrates the beauty of free thinking.”

Hanien Conradie at Montoro 12 Gallery

Hanien Conradie at Montoro 12 Gallery

Montoro12 Gallery presents sculptures and paintings by Cow MashHanien Conradie and Themba Khumalo. South African contemporary artist Cow Mash uses the symbol of a cow to explore notions of gender and generational transformation, explaining: “I create sculptures that speak to the transformation of traditions and culture using various synthetic materials and found objects. My artworks investigate the past from a present perspective and a negotiation of possible futures through the cow as a bridge between everything.”

Hanien Conradie’s abstract landscape paintings resemble delicate wall hangings and dominate the Montor12 gallery display. Described by the artist as ‘meditative pieces, they are made using natural pigments from sacred sites in South Eastern Botswana, such as Table Mountain National Park and the Tankwa Karoo.

Isabelle D. At Gallery Nosco

Isabelle D. At Gallery Nosco

Gallery Nosco is celebrating 60 years of Algeria’s independence with a presentation of ‘sculptural paintings’ by Isabelle. D. Isabelle D was born in France in 1966 and raised in Algeria with strong female figures in her life who continue to inspire her artistic practice. She uses traditionally female crafts such as sewing, knitting, crocheting and weaving to turn trauma into beauty.

SMO Contemporary

SMO Contemporary

The SMO Contemporary art display highlights CapeTown-based artist Manyaku Mashilo’s captivating paintings of women, which weave traditions of African spirituality, ancestry, community and identity into dreamlike scenes. Mashilo’s paintings are juxtaposed with the contemporary sculpture of Gary March, a London-based sculptor of Afro-Caribbean / British heritage who uses reclaimed and recycled materials and his training in architectural stone carving to create thoroughly modern abstract sculptures.

O Barco ('The Boat') by Grada Kilomba

O Barco (‘The Boat’) by Grada Kilomba

O Barco (‘The Boat’) by Grada Kilomba dominates the centre of Somerset House’s Edmond J. Safra Foundatin Court. Artist Grada Kilomba created the 32-metre-long installation as a monument to the millions of African people who were enslaved during the regrettable period of European colonisation and maritime expansion. Kilomba uses 140 blocks of charred wood displayed on the floor in the shape of a slave ship’s hold. People are invited to walk through the installation and contemplate the suffering endured by those enslaved on the ships.

Words/Photos Lee Sharrock Top Photo © Artlyst 2022

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