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Summer Surprise by Pascale Marthine Tayou / Photo: Ade Omoloja

London’s Somerset House showcases contemporary African art

The 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair rolled into town at the historic Somerset House in London on 5-8 October. The exhibition now in its 5th year is now firmly rooted in the international arts calendar and is a fantastic platform for contemporary African art, reports Ade Omoloja from London.

The 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair takes place at Somerset House each October, showcasing more than 150 contemporary artists from Africa and the African Diaspora. It’s an opportunity to enjoy contemporary African art in mediums including painting, sculpture, photography, video and installation, with a cross-section of works from across the continent.

There is a growing appetite and awareness of African contemporary art and this year’s fair is a significant part of its promotion, featuring 42 galleries from around the world, many from the four corners of Africa.

Hassan Hajjaj’s first exhibition in seven years “LA CARRAVNE” showcased new and celebrated works. The artist is known principally for his photographic portraits, which fuse traditional and contemporary North African culture and common Western contemporary objects.

The Kesh Angels series was on display and has some new additions. A new body of work “My Rock Stars volume 2”, a video installation of nine screens; each screen had a musician colourfully and distinctively dressed performing their specific musical discipline.

“LA CARRAVNE”, which is presented in conjunction with Somerset House, runs until the 7th of January 2018.

The Edmond J Safra Court had a specially commissioned installation by Cameroonian artist Pascale Marthine Tayou called “Summer Surprise” which references Toguna’s public structures in Mali, which is like a centre of

Idea exchange and intellectual discourse. He said “Summer Surprise” is a “portrait of revolution through my eyes, the intersection of horizontal power and vertical power and the people asking questions of how did it get so bad and ultimately where is the truth”. A pertinent question against the background of the current state of world affairs.

Emeka Ogboh


Pioneering sound artist Emeka Ogboh, winner of the 2016 Bottcherstraße Prize, presented a site-specific sound installation titled “Ebube Dike” which was commissioned by modern forms for 1.54 Contemporary African Art Fair. The piece, a multi-channel sound installation that combines the unique sound properties of the Oja (igbo flute) with fragments of famous speeches by African leaders, to create a sonic ode to African renaissance.

Emeka’s iconic “Lagos Soundscape” transport visitors to Lagos at the modern form stand; close your eyes for one second and you would be in Lagos.

Founding director of the 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair, Touria El Glaou, announced at the press briefing that the inaugural edition of the fair in Africa will take place in Morocco in February 2018.

Hassan Hajjaj


Every art movement needs its patrons. I spotted Aliko Dangote and Mo Ibrahim, two of Africa’s richest men, amongst many important personalities checking out the great works on display, no doubt adding or contemplating what to add to their collections.

The African contemporary art market continues to grow from strength to strength and this year’s fair is proof of that. See you in Morocco in 2018 for the inaugural edition in the Motherland!

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