As 1–54 Contemporary African Art Fair returns to Somerset House, London for the sixth consecutive year (4–7 October), the fair’s organisers can reflect on a lively year that has seen the inauguration of 1–54’s Marrakech edition in February, as well as a fourth edition in New York in May. The fair continues to provide a spotlight for contemporary artists from the 54 countries of the African continent, as well as its diaspora. This year’s edition in London features 43 galleries hailing from 21 countries – 16 of which are from Africa and 11 of which are newcomers.
For this year’s installation in the Somerset House courtyard, the Sudanese modernist Ibrahim El-Salahi presents his first public sculptural project. A large-scale version of his Meditation Tree sculptures, the installation will continue the artist’s long artistic inquiry into the structures of memory through motifs drawn from his own recollections of the haraz tree, native to Sudan’s Nile Valley.
Further special projects at the fair include a first UK solo exhibition for South African artist Athi-Patra Ruga, organised in collaboration with Somerset House. Ruga works with a diverse range of media, from drawing to photography and tapestry, to construct a surrealist world that confronts the legacies of apartheid.
Among the gallery shows, don’t miss the tapestries of Kyle Meyer at Yossi Milo Gallery, which fuse archival photographic portraits with colourful woven patterns to striking effect. Mongezi Ncaphayi at SMAC gallery combines painting with printmaking in his languorous abstract canvases, in which the rhythm of the painted line suggests a kind of leisurely wayfaring over fissuring fields of blue. Work by Derrick Adams is on show at Vigo Gallery, while Tiwani Contemporary brings paintings by the young British-Nigerian artist Joy Labinjo.
The fair’s FORUM talks programme is curated by Ekow Eshun and promises to be as critically rigorous as in previous years; conversations with artists Larry Achiampong and Hurvin Anderson feature alongside round-table discussions on the politics of black portraiture and Surrealism in Haiti.
1–54 Contemporary African Art Fair is at Somerset House, London, from 4–7 October.