Following a well-attended symposium at New York’s Armory Show earlier this year, 1:54 is poised for strong sales. With over a third of the galleries at this year’s fair exhibiting for the first time, collectors and art enthusiasts at 1:54 will enjoy a three-day celebration of African artists at the vanguard of their disciplines.
We share our favorite highlights of this weekend’s 1:54 London:
The fourth edition of 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair brings together over 40 exhibitors from 18 countries to showcase a diverse range of contemporary work by leading artists from the continent and diaspora. Named after the 54 countries of Africa, the ambitious fair will shine a spotlight on African art at Somerset House, the majestic Tudor palace overlooking the Thames.
1. Zak Ové, Black and Blue: The Invisible Man and the Masque of Blackness
As you enter Somerset House’s stately courtyard, you’ll find Irish-Trinidadian artist Zak Ové’sarmy of 40 two meter high black graphite statues standing guard amongst the foundations. The son of acclaimed filmmaker Horace Ové, Zak Ové originally trained in film and photography, before branching into sculpture following a residency at Caribbean Contemporary Art in 2007.
The “invisible men” standing guard both recall Ralph Ellison’s classic and harken back to the famed Yoruba masks that mark the aesthetic of the cool. The installation, also a commentary on power, beauty, and identity, references a play written by Ben Jonson and enacted by Anne of Denmark and her court ladies, painted in blackface, in the courtyard of Whitehall Palace in 1605. The play reflected a shift from earlier appreciation of black beauty to a preference for lighter skin in the 17th century. In reclaiming the name of the play and situating his army in the neoclassical palace, Ové affirms that black lives matter.