Special Projects Announced for Sixth London Edition of 1-54 at Somerset House

Ibrahim El-Salahi’s First Public Sculpture and Athi-Patra Ruga’s First Major UK Solo Show

  • Ibrahim El-Salahi, Meditation Tree, 2018, Courtesy Ibrahim El-Salahi and Vigo Gallery

    Ibrahim El-Salahi, Meditation Tree, 2018, Courtesy Ibrahim El-Salahi and Vigo Gallery

1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, the leading international art fair dedicated to contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora, has announced the programme of special projects for its sixth London edition, taking place at Somerset House, 4 – 7 October 2018, with a preview day on Wednesday 3 October.

1-54 will take over the Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court at Somerset House for the third consecutive year with Meditation Tree, a sculpture by one of the most significant figures in African and Arab Modernism, Sudanese artist Ibrahim El-Salahi (Vigo Gallery). Serving his ongoing investigation into the tree / body metaphor, demonstrated in his celebrated Tree series shown during his solo exhibition at TATE Modern (London, UK, 2003), the presentation at Somerset House will build on El-Salahi’s first sculptural project, Meditation Tree, reflecting the artist’s fascination with the Haraz tree, indigenous to Sudan, and its peculiar characteristics.  

In partnership with Somerset House, 1-54 will present Of Gods, Rainbows and Omissions (4 October 2018 – 7 January 2019), an exhibition of new and rarely seen works from internationally renowned South African artist Athi-Patra Ruga. In his first major solo UK exhibition, Ruga reveals a mythical world which challenges perception of cultural identity, and parodies the construction of the South African nation state in the post-apartheid era. For the first time, Ruga brings together three seminal bodies of work – The Future White Women of Azania (2012-15), Queens in Exile (2015-17), and The Beatification of Feral Benga (2017-present) – immersing visitors in his vibrant world filled with powerful and striking characters. Ruga’s work forms part of museum collections such as the Zeitz MOCAA (Cape Town, South Africa), and his exhibitions and performances have been staged internationally, including Louis Vuitton Foundation (Paris, France), the South African Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale (Venice, Italy), SFMOMA (San Francisco, US), Tate Modern (London, UK) and Guggenheim Bilbao (Bilbao, Spain).

British-Ghanaian and Somerset House Studios artist Larry Achiampong (Copperfield Gallery) will create an immersive installation that fuses the domestic and the religious, exploring Christianity’s role in colonialism and diasporic communities living in the West. Within a living-room setting staged by a television and sofa, Achiampong brings together Sunday’s Best (2016), a video considering how belief systems within the diaspora have been shaped by colonial histories; a painting from the artist’s Holy Cloud series, highlighting the peculiarity of dominant representations of Jesus in contemporary African society; and Glyth (2013), a series of altered family photos referencing issues of racist misrepresentation. Achiampong has exhibited, performed and presented projects internationally, including TATE Britain and Modern (London, UK), The Institute for Creative Arts (Cape Town, South Africa), and the Diaspora Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale (Venice, Italy).

Nando’s, 1-54 Silver Sponsor, will present work for sale by four Southern African artists in partnership with Spier Art Trust: Ricky Dyaloyi, Zemba Luzamba, John Murray and Emma Willemse. Nando’s was founded in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1987 and its restaurants house one of the largest publicly displayed bodies of contemporary Southern African art in the world, with over 8,000 pieces in the UK alone. Nando’s patronage of contemporary Southern African art, through close partnership with Spier Arts Trust, both enables career development opportunities for artists and the curation of Nando’s body of work. Their presentation of conceptual artist Emma Willemse work will consist of a suspended installation, Suture, which continues Willemse’s investigation of the boat as a symbol of displacement and the traumatic experience of loss.

The 1-54 Lounge will comprise an immersive experience of archive photography, paintings, ceramic sculptures and videos displayed in specially designed wooden vitrines and cabinets, formulated by Shiraz Bayjoo (Ed Cross Fine Art), a London-based artist currently working in the Indian Ocean region. The Lounge installation, Indian Ocean Archive (2018) builds on Bayjoo’s exploration of the legacies of European colonialism, and intersects with his latest body of work, Searching for Libertalia, which focusses on Madagascar and its nineteenth and twentieth-century history under French imperialism and will preview at the Casablanca Biennale later this year. Bayjoo was Artist in Residence at Whitechapel Gallery, London in 2011 and has had solo exhibitions in Italy, the US and the UK.

198 Contemporary Arts and Learning, in partnership with Jamaica-based performative curator Suzie Wong will present Required Reading, an exhibition of work by two Jamaican artists. Leasho Johnson and Monique Gilpin engage with notions surrounding identity, loss and reconstruction, particularly as they relate to the black body – its objectification, its wounds and the unrelenting tensions of reconstructing and navigating identity in a post plantation society and economy. The presentation draws on the discourse of Jamaican-born cultural theorist Stuart Hall, particularly his important essay Cultural Identity and Diaspora from 1990, in which he describes the experience of the migrant as one of dislocation, displacement and hybridity.

Sulger-Buel Lovell will present an installation by Congolese artist Gastineau Massamba. Born in Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo, Massamba was confronted with the civil war that tore apart his country. The artist explores violence, chaos and pain, deep traces of which can still be felt today. Massamba burns, cuts and embroiders huge canvasses or linen to create images of incredible force, bearing witness to unspeakable human suffering.  

Somerset House Shop, in partnership with 1-54, will bring together a bespoke collection of publications and magazines dedicated to contemporary art and culture from Africa and its diaspora, on sale throughout the fair.

Touria El Glaoui, Director of 1-54, said: “We are delighted to announce such a strong selection of Special Projects for the sixth edition of 1-54 London, particularly our collaboration with Somerset House on the first major UK solo exhibition of Athi-Patra Ruga’s striking and powerful work. It is really exciting for us to be working with Ibrahim El-Salahi and Larry Achiampong again within our Special Projects programme, who continue to create innovative artwork in the UK and internationally.”

For the sixth year in a row, 1-54 will be accompanied by FORUM, the fair’s extensive talks and events programme, including artists talks, film screenings and panel discussions with international curators, artists and cultural producers. 1-54 FORUM will be curated for the first time, by writer and curator Ekow Eshun, chairman of the Fourth Plinth Commissioning Group and Creative Director of Calvert 22 Foundation. FORUM at 1-54 London 2018 will be sponsored by Christie’s Education. The full programme will be announced in September.