Recap: 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair, London

Overlapping Frieze as well as a number of African art shows that took place in London this fall, was the third iteration of 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair which presented a distinguished roster of artists, newcoming galleries, and special projects by Fondation Zinsou and Hassan Hajjaj, among others. Here is a closeup of four artists who exhibited at 1:54 and pointed fingers at the deviations of our globalised society.

At Galerie Maïa Muller, Sudanese artist Hassan Musa addressed a socio-political critique by assimilating money to a new religion with his work on textile titled Moneytheism. By covering a dollar bill with plum tree branches—symbols of growth in China, and framing the note with Arabic letters, Musa hints at the insatiable lust for money and its near sanctification as the ultimate prize by both Eastern and Western cultures, despite a potential rupture of ethical boundaries. 


Moneytheism, Ink on textile, 2014, Courtesy Galerie Maïa Muller

 On the walls of Mariane Ibrahim Gallery’s booth, Togo-born Clay Apenouvon underlined the materialistic obsessions of a society ‘sold by packaging’ with an installation consisting of black plastic stretched inside a golden frame. The synthetic material flowed out of its seemingly precious container to roll itself out onto the floor, where it coalesced into irregular shapes. By opposing noble and basic materials, Apenouvon hints at an often misguided tendency to perceive value in shiny objects. 


Film noir dans un cadre doré, 2015, Extended plastic film and wood, Courtesy of Mariane Ibrahim Gallery 

With Found, Not Taken, an ongoing photographic series of objects amassed across several countries where he has lived and worked, Edson Chagas reveals exponentially increasing consumerist habits and their global occurrence. By carefully placing his finds within minimalistic environments, Chagas gives birth to abstract compositions that encourage both visual and ideological examinations of the objects, repurposed to exist as living creatures.


Found Not Taken (London), 2014, C-type print, Courtesy of A Palazzo Gallery

Ibrahim Mahama evokes the fragility of economies dependant on global trade with his site specific installations that primarily involve burlap sacks used for merchandise import in his native Ghana. By upholstering urban environments with webs of jute bags, as he did for the Venice Biennale, Mahama transforms by-passers into partakers, who convert the installations into performative interventions. Their ephemeral nature nods to the transitory destiny of both merchandise and individuals, drifting through multiple landscapes as a result of a globalised economy. 


Out of Bounds, 2014 – 2015, Coal sacks, metal tags and jute ropes on coal sacks, 

Site specific installation, 56th Venice Biennale, Courtesy of A Palazzo Gallery

Marina Iordan

Marina Iordan is a Dubai based art professional, specialising in art from the Middle East and Arab world.