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Art Market

Frieze week highlights: contemporary African art comes to London

7 October 2021

There’s no better time than Frieze Week to appreciate the sheer amount of contemporary African art you can see in London these days. Partly this is thanks to 1-54 contemporary African Art fair, which has coincided with Frieze London and Masters since 2013 – but it’s also a knock-on effect of the rapid growth of gallery infrastructure across the continent of Africa itself. Addis Fine Art opened in 2016 as the first white-cube space in Ethiopia – five years on, the gallery has just opened its first permanent outpost in the UK capital: a two-storey space in Fitzrovia, where it will continue to promote modern and contemporary art from the Horn of Africa. First up is Nirit Takele (b. 1985), who paints robustly rotund characters in primary colours, often entangled in complex configurations; her work depicts Ethiopian communities in Israel, where her family emigrated in 1991 (8–30 October).

Refugees (1977), Obiora Udechukwu.

Refugees (1977), Obiora Udechukwu. Courtesy Kó

Making a trip to London for the fairs this month is , founded in Lagos last year by the collector Kavita Chellaram. Alongside contemporary shows the gallery is committed to displaying work by the leading figures in Nigeria’s modernist movements of the 1960s and ’70s. One such artist is Obiora Udechukwu (b. 1946), one of the most significant painters and poets of the Nsukka school that emerged from the University of Nigeria in the late 1960s. His style was forged amid the Biafran War: early works are sombre, depicting traumatised mourners and refugees; later paintings are more enigmatic. What they share is compelling spatial arrangement, fluid line and vivid colour – evidence of the wide range of pictorial traditions Udechukwu has assimilated, from Igbo Uli patterns to nsiki symbols used by secret religious societies, and techniques drawn from Chinese ink-wash painting. The gallery offers a rare chance to see works from across his career in London at its Frieze Masters Spotlight booth (13­–17 October).