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1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair and more…

Post by Evelyn Owen

1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair returns to Brooklyn this weekend, bringing the work of over 60 emerging and mid-career artists to the light-filled warehouse space at Pioneer Works.

It’ll be the 1:54’s third time in New York, in addition to the original fair that takes place in London every October, and the organizers recently announced a new Marrakech edition next February. With three locations across three continents, and a growing roster of galleries, artists, and special partners, the fair is increasingly well-established. In addition, with its commitment to education through the FORUM program, 1:54 is taking a strong lead in disseminating information and ideas about contemporary African art, arguably going beyond its core role as a commercial platform.

Here are our top tips for things to check out at 1:54 and beyond this weekend…


1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair: FORUM


Forum participants in 2016.

1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair – FORUM

Pioneer Works, 159 Pioneer Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231

Friday, May 5 – Sunday, May 7

Times vary – full program here


FORUM is a talks program accompanying 1:54 Contemporary African Art fair, curated by Koyo Kouoh, Founder and Artistic Director of RAW Material Company, Dakar. In a 2015 profile in the New York Times, Kouoh reflected on the blossoming field of contemporary African art, noting that the energy and momentum is in large part driven from within Africa and its diaspora. “I do not necessarily think the heightened visibility of African contemporary art is due to a heightened interest in the West,” she said. “It is just due to an increased savviness of African art professionals. There are more professionals in the field, doing amazing things. And ultimately, this is the cause for attention.”

1:54’s FORUM is one important platform where this work comes to the attention of a wider audience. This year’s program puts the idea of “community” at the forefront of the conversation, with artists, performers, curators, and scholars coming together to explore how artistic practices and strategies can foster common ground among diverse constituencies. We’re especially interested in the Saturday afternoon event, “I Belong Here:” Art in times of Resurgent Nationalism, which features curator Ugochukwu-Smooth Nzewi in conversation with artists Sadie Barnette and Odili Donald Odita. Against today’s political backdrop, they’ll be talking about the possibilities of Black art and aesthetics as a strategy of engagement.

Find out more about this talk and the rest of the program by checking out the FORUM web page. Entry to all FORUM events is free with a fair ticket ($20, concessions available.)


Aperture presents “Platform Africa”


Upcoming edition of Aperture: Platform Africa


1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair – Lounge and Garden

Pioneer Works, 159 Pioneer Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231

Saturday, May 6, 6-8pm


Aperture Magazine’s upcoming edition “Platform Africa” explores the story of contemporary photography in Africa, both through the dynamic spaces it occupies—biennales, galleries, workshops and so on—and through portfolios by emerging photographers. There’s a launch event in the 1:54 lounge and garden, where you can learn more.



Meet the artist: Modupeola Fadugba


Modupeola Fadugba, How to do a Platform Lift, 2016


1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair – Booth B7

Pioneer Works, 159 Pioneer Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231

Saturday, May 6, 1:30-2pm


This meet-and-greet gives fair-goers the opportunity to meet Togo-born, Nigeria-based artist Modupeola Fadugba. Fadugba’s dreamlike paintings take familiar public settings—the swimming pool, or the church—and turn them into something mysterious. Bodies of water and panes of glass are rendered in burnt paper and muted colors as delicate, multi-layered surfaces, on which Fadugba’s figures emerge and recede.



Malick Sidibé: The Eye of Modern Mali


Malick Sidibé

Red Hook Labs

133-135 Imlay Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231

Friday, May 5—Sunday, May 7, 10am-6pm (daily)


One year after his death, the photographs of Malick Sidibé are as powerful as ever. Working in Bamako, Mali from the 1950s onwards, Sidibé chronicled the fashions, past-times, amusements, and preoccupations of Malians as they lived through and shaped the emergence of modernity. Both in and out of the studio, Sidibé honed in on the restless energy of a country in transformation. This exhibition at Red Hook Labs celebrates his life and career with a selection of 37 photographs.


Nataal: New African Photography II


William Ukoh, Flock, 2017

Red Hook Labs

133-135 Imlay Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231

Friday, May 5—Sunday, May 14, 10am-6pm (daily)


Also at Red Hook Labs is this exhibition presenting nine contemporary artists whose work engages with Africa today, spanning documentary, fashion and portrait photography, video, and performance. Artists included are: Girma Berta, Kadara Enyeasi, Cyndia Harvey, Nadine Ijewere, Mimi Cherono Ng’ok, Nobukho Nqaba, Wura-Natasha Ogunji, William Ukoh, and Kyle Weeks.





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