1-54 Art Fair London: my six favorite exhibitions

As 1-54 celebrates its 10th anniversary, the first international art fair dedicated to modern and contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora returns to Somerset House in London. 1-54 was founded by Touria El Glaoui 10 years ago. There are now three annual editions: in Marrakech, New York and London, with an ephemeral edition in Paris. The name 1-54 refers to the 54 countries that make up the African continent.

Jack Bell Gallery

Jack Bell Gallery features a group exhibition, including a chair made from scrap bullets by Mozambican artist Gonçalo Mabunda and exquisite paintings by Manel Ndoye. Ndoye’s unique style of painting fuses figurative and abstract artistic gestures with references to the ecosystems and life of coastal Lebou communities in his birthplace of Senegal and a ceremonial dance called Ndawrabine, which mimics the gestures of fishermen.

    Francisco Vidal at Not the White Cube

Francisco Vidal at Not the White Cube

Have your portrait painted by Francisco Vidal at This is not a white cube as part of his ‘Still Free’ performance. Vidal explains the origins of ‘Still Free’: “In 2020 and 2021, I did a lot of drawings and paintings related to ‘isolation and social media’ and paintings. When I

Realizing that these topics dealt with the space of the individual bubble versus an active social space, I decided to do a seated exercise as opposed to individual experience and isolation. It is a performance that celebrates the beauty of free thought.

Hanien Conradie at the Montoro 12 Gallery

Hanien Conradie at the Montoro 12 Gallery

Gallery Montoro12 features sculptures and paintings by cow mash, Hanien Conradie and Themba Khumalo. South African contemporary artist Cow Mash uses the symbol of a cow to explore notions of gender and generational transformation, explaining, “I create sculptures that speak to the transformation of traditions and culture using various synthetic materials and found objects. My works explore the past from a present perspective and a negotiation of possible futures through the cow as a bridge between everything.

At Hanien Conradie paintings of abstract landscapes resemble delicate wall hangings and dominate the display at Galerie Montor12. Described by the artist as “meditative pieces”, they are made from natural pigments sourced from sacred sites in southeastern Botswana, such as Table Mountain National Park and the Tankwa Karoo.

Isabelle D. at the Nosco Gallery

Isabelle D. at the Nosco Gallery

The Nosco gallery is celebrating 60 years of Algerian independence with a presentation of Isabelle’s “sculptural paintings”. D. Isabelle D was born in France in 1966 and grew up in Algeria with strong female figures in her life who continue to inspire her artistic practice. She uses traditionally female crafts such as sewing, knitting, crocheting and weaving to transform trauma into beauty.

Contemporary SMO

Contemporary SMO

The Contemporary SMO The art exhibition highlights the captivating paintings of women by Cape Town artist Manyaku Mashilo, who weave traditions of African spirituality, ancestry, community and identity into dreamlike scenes. Mashilo’s paintings are juxtaposed with contemporary sculpture by Gary March, a London-based sculptor of Afro-Caribbean/British descent who uses reclaimed and recycled materials and his background in architectural stone carving to create decidedly modern abstract sculptures.

Oh Barco (

O Barco (“The Boat”) by Grada Kilomba

O Barco (“The Boat”) by Grada Kilomba dominates the center of the Edmond J. Safra Foundatin Court of Somerset House. Artist Grada Kilomba created the 32 meter long installation as a monument to the millions of Africans who were enslaved during the unfortunate period of European colonization and maritime expansion. Kilomba uses 140 blocks of charred wood arranged on the ground in the shape of a slave ship’s hold. People are invited to walk through the installation and contemplate the suffering endured by the ships’ slaves.

Words/Photos Lee Sharrock Top Photo © Artlyst 2022

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