London Art Week buzzed with vibrant energy as diverse contemporary African artworks took center stage in various art fairs. These events are crucial, offering a global platform for African artists in the diaspora. Notably, artists’ collaborations with international galleries has boosted African art sales significantly. Frieze and 1-54, in partnership with renowned institutions like Tate Modern and Sotheby’s, have accelerated the sale of contemporary and modern artworks. In this article, we delve into a comparative analysis of these art fairs, exploring their venues and the representation of African artists at large.
Both art fairs occurred during London Art Week from the 11th to the 15th of October, just 3.2 miles apart. Frieze Art Fair London was hosted at Regents Park, offering a diverse array of contemporary artworks. Notably, the Frieze sculpture fair, coinciding with the main event, is set to grace Regent’s Park public park from the 20th to the 29th of October and will proudly feature three African artists: Yinka Shonibare, Leilah Babirye, and Temitayo Ogunbiyi.
On the other hand, the 1-54 art fair, one of the world’s largest, unfolded at Somerset House in London from the 12th to the 15th of October. In its 11th edition, the fair showcased 12 commissioned sculptures by Moroccan artist Amine El Gotaibi, representing the diversity of Africa. This special exhibition adorned the Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court in Somerset House.
African Representation in both fairs.
In its 11th edition, the 1-54 art fair showcased more than 60 international exhibitors, including a third from the continent. Featuring over 170 artists worldwide, the fair presented a diverse collection of contemporary artworks representing African and black identities. Highlighting various perspectives on Africaness and African identity, artists and galleries, such as BKHZ, SA, offered unique insights. Notably, the BKHZ gallery SA booth curated a captivating exhibition titled “Intimate,” celebrating diverse interpretations of intimacy.
This year at Frieze London, two African galleries stood out, each representing at least 5 artists on their roster. These galleries highlighted diverse categories, showcasing a variety of artists. Notably, the Frieze London focus section spotlighted Addis Fine Art and Tiwani Contemporary within their galleries section. Artists like Grace Ndiritu emerged as the top picks for Frieze London and Masters Viewing Room 2023, flying the Kenyan flag high.
To boost sales, the 1-54 art fair has joined forces with Artsy and Christie’s. This marks 1-54’s fourth year partnering with Christie’s, amplifying the fair’s global reach and spotlighting African art worldwide. Christie’s is set to host the second 1-54 Presents pop-up exhibition in London from October 10-13. Simultaneously, 1-54’s collaboration with Artsy facilitates online exploration, connections, and collections from galleries and artists, available from October 12-29.
Similarly, the Frieze Tate Fund, Supported by Endeavor, allocated £150,000 for acquiring works by emerging and established global artists during Frieze London and Frieze Masters. Maria Balshaw, Director of Tate, reflected on their longstanding collaboration, celebrating over 160 acquired works since 2003. Supported by Endeavor, this tradition continues, enriching Tate’s collection with a brilliant array of pieces. Notable acquisitions include artworks by Mark Leckey, Rene Matić, and Tate St Ives, including works by Obiora Udechukwu. This year’s selection committee, comprising leading art professionals, ensures a diverse and exciting collection.
Both of these art fairs represent contemporary and modern works from the globe and Africa at large. It is exciting and promising to see the international support of African artists and artworks. What’s more, established African artists are propelling the African art Renaissance by offering residencies and public platforms for upcoming artists from the continent. Both of these art fairs are accessible online. Click here to access the viewing rooms that showcase the diversity of art around the globe.