Art in the Diaspora

Celebrating African Artistry: Highlights from The Armory Show 2023

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The 2023 Armory Show in New York was a resounding success, solidifying New York’s status as a cultural hub. This event has united the world’s premier contemporary art galleries for nearly three decades. It has been instrumental in elevating New York’s cultural significance through meticulous curation, innovative programming, and meaningful partnerships. Let us delve into the notable African galleries and artists that graced this remarkable showcase.

Gallery 1957, located in London and Accra, has garnered acclaim for championing West African and international contemporary art. At The Armory Show, they featured a solo exhibition by Arthur Timothy, a Ghanaian artist. Inspired by family photographs and memories, Timothy’s evocative paintings explore themes of family and identity.

Lace & Tergal, 2023. Oil on linen. 150 x 120 x 2.6 cm. Image courtesy of Gallery 1957.

KO Gallery contributes to the Armory Show with a diverse representation of African contemporary art. This gallery, focusing on African and Caribbean artists, provides a platform for emerging talents to gain international recognition. Modupeola Fadugba is one of the artists represented, known for her vibrant and textured paintings. Her art explores themes of identity and migration, standing as a testament to the power of artistic expression in conveying complex narratives.

Lady in Red, 2022. Image courtesy of Instagram.

James Cohan Gallery spotlights African creativity at The Armory Show 2023, featuring Yinka Shonibare CBE. His works challenge post-colonialism and cultural identity, often incorporating Dutch wax fabric, a symbol of African identity. Kaloki Nyamai, a Kenyan artist renowned for her thought-provoking works on identity and culture, is also showcased.

SMAC Gallery presents Mary Sibande’s artworks, where she brings South Africa’s African ancestors to life through her avatar, Sophie. Her transformation unfolds through vibrant colors, symbolizing healing, dreams, and societal change.

Mary Sibande- They Don’t MakDon’tm Like They Used To., 2008
Digital pigment print on textured archival rag with non-fugitive ink.
104.5 x 69.5 cm. Image courtesy of Instagram.

Based in Cape Town, Southern Guild made a powerful debut at The Armory Show with a group exhibition. Featuring artists like Zizipho Poswa, Kamyar Bineshtarigh, Manyaku Mashilo, and Oluseye, this showcase was a dynamic exploration. Oluseye’s series delves into collecting and documenting, focusing on diasporic debris, like hair accessories, collected during transatlantic journeys. These artifacts embody loss, exile, transmission, and disconnection themes, resonating with evolving urban landscapes.

Southern Guild booth at the Armory show, 2023. Image courtesy of Instagram.

Coming to an end on the 10th of September, this year’s showcase served as a platform for diverse artistic expressions from Africa and beyond. It showcased the power of contemporary African art to engage with global issues, fostering dialogue and cultural exchange. As these artists and galleries continue to push boundaries, they remind us of art’s transformative potential in our ever-changing world.


Rose Mwikali Musyoki is a creative writer from Nairobi, Kenya. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Business and Finance from the University of Embu, Kenya, and is the founder of Bloom Inc, an art startup in Kenya. Currently, she works as a writer for Art News Africa.

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