Top Picks From 1-54 African Art Fair 2022
Visitors at 1-54 African Art Fair 2022 viewing the works by Zanele Muholi. The photo belongs to the author.
1-54 African Art Fair is the platform for commercial galleries to come together and champion artists from Africa and its diaspora. With locations in Marrakesh, London, and New York, this art fair is the leading voice of Contemporary African Art in the international art world. This year, 1-54 London celebrated its 10th anniversary, and its program was as exciting as ever. I enjoy this fair a lot more than Frieze, which takes place during the same week every year, because it is less pretentious and always offers fresh artists to discover.
1-54 London 2022 hosted 50 international exhibitors across 21 countries, with 16 galleries being from Africa. Over 130 artists were exhibited at this year’s fair. Here are my top 10 favorites!
#1) Manyaku Mashilo
(b.1991, Limpopo, South Africa)
Manyaku Mashilo, Two Sisters, 2021, Acrylic paint and ink on canvas. Courtesy of SMO Contemporary Art and the artist.
Manyaku Mashilo was born in 1991 in Limpopo, South Africa, and currently lives and works in Cape Town. Mashilo is a self-taught multidisciplinary artist working with paper and mixed media. Her work addresses spiritual identity, memory, ancestry, community, and belonging themes.
In 2021, Mashilo’s work was included in SMO Contemporary Art’s group presentation at Art X Lagos in Lagos, Nigeria. Her work is part of the Tiroche DeLeon Collection, in Tel Aviv, Israel, and the Suzie Wong Collection, in Kingston, Jamaica, and private collections in the United Kingdom, Nigeria, Korea, and the United States of America.
#2) Moufouli Bello
(b.1987, Cotonou, Benin)
Moufouli Bello, Little Big Sister, 2022, Acrylic paint on canvas. Courtesy of SMO Contemporary Art and the artist.
Moufouli Bello is a multi-media artist who lives and works between Cotonou, Benin, and Brussels, Belgium. She has a master's degree in International Labor Law from the National School of Administration and has professional experience in law and journalism. Her artistic practice began in 2012 with participation in the creation of the Upright Man of Benin, organized by the Zinsou Foundation. Bello's artwork explores ideological structures and how traditions, culture, politics, and technology affect our emotions, perceptions of society, and the concept of unity. Her portraits focus on the representation of black woman and their visibility, often with intimate subjects directly confronting the viewer's gaze. She has exhibited internationally, including in Paris, Lomé, Casablanca, Tel Aviv, and Vienna.
#3) Charlene Komuntale
(b.1991, Kampala, Uganda)
Charlene Komuntale, Aqua Dresses from the Not Fragile Series, 2022, Digital painting, Archival print. Courtesy of Afriart Gallery and the artist.
Charlene Komuntale is a digital artist and illustrator based in Kampala, Uganda. She holds a BA in Animation from Limkokwing University, Malaysia, and her artwork captures moments frozen in time, filled with surreal elements and metaphorical and symbolical references. The women she portrays on her canvases evoke a dreamy, peaceful, and quiet atmosphere, whereas at a closer look, powerful, empowering, and unapologetic messages come to the forefront. Komuntale's digital paintings deconstruct patriarchal narratives shaped by culture, religion, and politics and provide a ground for inquiry, interrogation, and visions of different futures.
From March to June 2021, she attended the Silhouette Projects Residency Program operating under Afriart Gallery. Her work was shown in the group exhibition "Where the Wild Things Are" at Afriart Gallery in 2022, African Galleries Now X Artsy in July 2021, Abu Dhabi Art in 2021, and Investec Cape Town in 2022.
#4) Dawit Adnew
(b. 1973, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia)
Dawit Adnew, Transient Beauty, 2022, Acrylic on canvas. Courtesy of Addis Fine Art and the artist.
Born in Addis Ababa in 1973, Adnew graduated from the Addis Ababa University, Alle School of Fine Arts and Design, in 1995 with a diploma in graphics. While working as a professional printing designer at Adwa Textile Factory, he implemented flat-form art techniques. The techniques he learned early on as a textile designer continue to inform his practice, as do studies in masks and iconography. Surrounded by blooming flowers and creeping foliage, the women in his canvases communicate wordlessly, drawing the viewer into their silent dialogue. Dawit has exhibited in Addis Ababa, Kenya, Uganda, and Malta.
#5) Pedro Neves
(b.1997, Imperatriz, Maranhão, Brazil)
Pedro Neves, Encantada, 2022, Acrylic on canvas. Courtesy of Portas Vilaseca Galeria and the artist.
A student of cultural heritage and a practitioner of capoeira Angola, Pedro Neves seeks to represent everyday life and the signs that translate the Brazilian people and their cultural complex. His work has been constructed through painting on different supports and dimensions, analog photographs, and ceramic sculptures. The artist also investigates Brazilian identity and its relations with the outside world, colonization, and the sequels left by this period in social reality and the collective imagination. Neves lives and works in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil.
#6) Lavar Munroe
(b.1982, Nassau, Bahamas)
Lavar Munroe, And If Ya Drown, Ya Drown, 2021, Acrylic and mixed media on canvas. Courtesy of Jack Bell Gallery.
Lavar Munroe is a visual artist who works with acrylic and mixed media on unstretched canvas, often incorporating objects and materials such as mousetraps, beads, ceramic tiles, textiles, and feathers. In his most recent series, the artist focuses on sea travel and its relationship to ancestry, migration, and refugees.
Munroe's recent exhibitions include shows at the Perez Art Museum Miami; the National Gallery of Bahamas, Nassau; the MAXXI Museum of Art, Rome; the Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco; and the Meadows Museum of Art, Louisiana. Works have been included in previous exhibitions at "Prospect 4" triennial, New Orleans, directed by Trevor Schoonmaker; "All the World's Futures," 56th Venice Biennale, curated by Okwui Enwezor; 12th Dakar biennale, curated by Simon Njami; Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University; and SCAD Museum of Art among others. He lives and works in Baltimore, Maryland, USA.
#7) Miguel Angel Payano Jr.
(b. 1980, New York, USA)
Miguel Angel Payano Jr., Vitruvian Venn, 2022, Mixed media on linen. Courtesy of Galleria Poggiali and the artist.
Miguel Angel Payano Jr. is an Afro-Caribbean American artist based in New York, USA. Informed by the unlikely intersection of USA, Caribbean, and Chinese cultures, he investigates themes such as human socialization, identity formation, and class, applying a style-shifting visual vernacular to create works that span the spectrum between painting and sculpture. His transcultural surrealist sensibilities bind aesthetics with humor and the grotesque, often translating and transgressing different artistic forms.
Payano received a dual degree in Studio Art and Chinese Language from Williams College in Massachusetts in 2003 before moving to China and attending the renowned Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, where he graduated with an MFA in 2008. In 2020, Payano received a second MFA from Hunter College in New York, where he was the recipient of the S&W Scholarship. He has exhibited in Europe, Southeast Asia, and the US. His works are in significant collections in China and Italy.
#8) Souleimane Barry
(b. 1980, Burkina Faso)
Souleimane Barry, Modele vivant, 2021, Acrylic on canvas. Courtesy of Galerie Anne de Villepoix and the artist.
Souleimane Barry is a visual artist trained in the medium of painting by African and European teachers. His distinctive aesthetic of dreamlike canvases rich with symbols of the African diaspora and the collective imaginary was shaped by drawing classes he took in Ouagadougou and by his work making hand-painted billboard advertisements during summer breaks from school. He has also cited Francis Bacon and Jean-Michel Basquiat as his biggest influences and shares their innate capacity for conveying the inner lives of the figures he depicts. Souleimane's work has been exhibited globally. He lives and works between Burkina Faso and Blois, France.
#9) Zéh Palito
(b.1991, Limeira, Brazil)
Zéh Palito, Invisible Man, 2022. Acrylic on Canvas. Courtesy of Luce Gallery and the artist.
Zéh Palito is a storyteller and cultural observer who provides insight into contemporary African diasporic life. Adorned with gold and other jewels, shells, exotic fruits, and flowers, the figures in his paintings become the center of attention and the protagonists of their own stories. Each figure is positioned in a stance of power that illustrates a positive self-identity and pays homage to a rich cultural heritage. Combined with bright colors, each figure demonstrates confidence, satisfaction, and self-assurance through their mere existence.
Palito has a degree in Graphic Design from Faculdade de Administracao e Artes de Limeira and has participated in various international group and solo exhibitions. His work resides in the museum collections of Instituto Inhotim, Brumadinho, Brazil; Ronnie Museum Vancouver, Canada; the Xiao Museum of Contemporary Art, Rizhao, China; X Museum, Beijing, China; and Fundación AMMA, Mexico City. Palito lives and works in São Paulo, Brazil.
#10) Yveline Tropéa
Yveline Tropéa, Ni queue Ni tête, 2022, Hand-beaded and embroidered painting, Framed. Courtesy of Galerie Anne de Villepoix and the artist.
Yveline Tropéa is a French visual artist that works by embroidering thousands of beads onto a canvas to create surrealist imagery. Over the years, she has become an expert in this technique. She has successfully integrated, applied, and displayed Africa's cultural, technical, and aesthetic aspects in her personal and contemporary work. Her work is informed by various influences, from Italian Madonnas to French anatomical drawings, from Mediterranean myths to Burkinabe advertising aesthetics. Tropéa lives and works between France and Burkina Faso.