Given it’s the only contemporary African art fair of its kind and conveniently timed with Frieze Week, 1:54 has a lot to live up to.
Anything taking place in Somerset House is always going to raise expectation and the art fair exceeded them all. The beautiful wings of the neo-classical building showed off the works and the great weather didn’t hurt either.
I particularly enjoyed the lounge designed by Moroccan artist Hassan Hajjaj. It was the perfect place to take a break on Coca Cola crates with comfy, vibrant cushions when the art got to be all a bit too much (especially if you’re hungover too).
For example, I loved Afronova Gallery’s work on display. Henri, the gallery owner and a good friend of the artist, showed us work by Billie Zangewa. The Kenyan artist seems to have done it all. Model, mother and artist all come together in her elaborately stitched tapestries.
The three on display show the shift in emotional state of Zangewa; the works are revealing and sincere. Back to Black was my personal favourite.
I had a lot more fun here than at Frieze: there’s a hell of a lot more African art (naturally) and the architecture made the experience much more relaxed (it helps when you’re not in what’s essentially a marquee… yeah, Frieze). The gallerists were really welcoming and ready to take you through the work they’d brought from far and wide.
Of course I may be slightly biased towards 1:54 as TRUE Africa has a desk in the fair’s bookshop. Come say hi!
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