A three-day discovery at Christie’s Paris during 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair 2021. A review, covering the most prominent artists and art galleries of the Art Fair through the eye of producer Cori Coppola.
1:54 PARIS EDITION 2021
Review by Zoltan Alexander
through the eye of
Featured galleries and artists
François-Xavier Gbré, Roméo Mivekannin and Ouattara Watts at Galerie Cécile Fakhoury (Abidjan / Dakar / Paris), Nú Barreto at Galerie Nathalie Obadia (Paris / Bruxelles), Mounir Fatmi at Wilde Gallery (Basel), Romuald Hazoumè at Galerie Magnin-A (Paris), Leila Alaoui and Pascale Marthine Tayou at Galleria Continua (Paris / San Gimignano / Roma / Beijing / Havana), Andrew Tshabangus at Galerie Septième (Paris), René Tavaresat This Is Not A White Cube (Lisbon), Mous Lamrabat and M’hammed Kilito at Loft Art Gallery (Casablanca), Sara Imloul and Mouna Saboni at Galerie 127 (Marrakesh), Prince Gyasi at NIL Gallery (Paris), and Maïmouna Guerresi at Galerie Dominique Fiat (Paris).
1:54 Paris 2021 at Christie's / © video by Zoltan Alexander ZOLTAN+MEDIA
Being restricted from travelling due to Covid was an utter nuisance, and although it was a necessary act to slow the pandemic, it prevented me from attending the Paris edition of 1:54 in person. I have been covering the art fair for years and it would have been a great loss to miss out on the event, had my movie producer not been living in Paris.
2021, more than any other years, is dedicated to powerful and aspirational women:
Kamala Harris, Vice President, San Francisco / Amanda Gorman, poet, wordsmith, change-maker and beacon of hope, Los Angeles / Touria El Glaoui, founder. director of 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair, London-Marrakesh / Ilwad Elman, peace activist, Somalia / Zanele Muholi, photographer, activist, South Africa / Cori Coppola, movie producer, writer, Paris-Los Angeles.
C. Coppola and I come from a very different background, yet our minds work as if in tandem. She responded to my proposition with no hesitation when I asked her to be my 'eye' for the day at Christie’s. She accepted the challenge and joined me for a somewhat atypical tour at 1:54. We visited the event 500km apart, virtually for me, physically for her but perfectly synchronised together, effectively overcoming my perceived limitation thinking of the words of St. Agustine who once said: “The world is a book, and those who do not travel, read only one page.”
WHAT ONE KNOWS
The renowned and worldwide celebrated 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair does not need any introduction. The Fair has been going on for over seven years in London, later in New York and Marrakesh.
In 2021, 1:54 made a radical change. Due to the worldwide pandemic and travel restrictions, the Marrakesh edition in February was postponed and founder Touria El Glaoui brought 1:54 to Paris for the first time.
The partnership between 1:54 and Christie’s dates back to October 2020, to the success of their collaboration, for which Christie’s London displayed many of the artworks at their King Street location in St James’s and on their online platform.
Now, Christie’s Paris partnered with 1:54 and hosted 20 international exhibitors including Galerie 127, Loft Art Gallery, Nil Gallery, Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Galerie Cécile Fakhoury, Galerie Magnin-A among many other reputed art galleries.
The online platform, curated by LE 18, a multidisciplinary art space located in Morocco, enabled visitors from across the world to participate digitally in the Art Fair from January through February. El Glaoui's voice now can be heard in four different cities of the world.
Touria El Glaoui was born in Marrakesh, daughter of Hassan El Glaoui, a painter of figurative scenes of horsemen and landscapes; granddaughter of the last Pasha of Marrakesh, Thami El Glaoui, following a 300-year-old dynasty over the Berbers. She has organized and curated exhibitions of her father’s work before founding 1:54 in London, in 2013.
Beside Somerset House in London and La Mamounia in Marrakesh, Christie’s Paris became the headquarters of 1:54 offering a scaled-down but unquestionably a diverse, vibrant and powerful selection of international galleries portraying the multitude of contemporary art and artists of Africa and its diaspora.
AN ART FAIR IN SOMEWHAT FREE-FORM
Having spent the day with Cori Coppola, I asked her: “Now, that we walked around, what was your first impression, the first thing that struck you when you entered Christie’s at avenue Matignon? Who were the most significant artists you would draw our attention to?”
Cori Coppola: “We just recently finished a film in Paris and with all the complications of the lockdown it was a breath of fresh air to attend 1:54 at Christie’s. It wasn’t just 1:54’s debut in Paris but mine too to attend the event as my first major discovery on African contemporary art. It was a delight. This unique edition was almost like a testament to adapting within the current global context. I believe that our support was important and meaningful.
When I entered Christie’s, I was immediately offered a custom-made face mask making me feel secure. I made my way to the first floor and the very first image I came across was an installation of a rusty, old-fashion motorcycle with large glass buckets, titled “Bunkeley” by Romuald Hazoumè. I got the message right away that 1:54 is going to be a ground-breaking statement, exactly what we need now in our tormented time. But let me come back to the artist later, at Galerie MAGNIN-A."
"As I advanced in the exhibition halls, a rush of warmth and colours enveloped me and I could only think of a quote by Albert Camus:
“In the midst of hate, I found there was, within me, an invincible love. In the midst of tears, I found there was, within me an invincible smile. In the midst of chaos, I found there was, within me, an invincible calm. I realised, through it all, that in the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there is something stronger, something better, pushing right back.”
"Now, let’s look at the artists and galleries I most enjoyed” C. Coppola
GALERIE CECILE FAKHOURY
Abidjan / Dakar / Paris
Cécile Fakhoury presented the works of five major artists: François-Xavier Gbré, Jems Koko Bi, Roméo Mivekannin, Cheikh Ndiaye and Ouattara Watts.
“I found a stunning and silent architectural image by the Ivorian photographer François-Xavier Gbré “Escalier, Maison du PCDI-RDA,Yamoussoukro, Côte d’Ivoire”, and downstairs a chef d’oeuvre, a black acrylic painting “Le Radeau de la Méuse”, a retelling of the famous painting by Théodore Géricault by Roméo Mivekannin, taking up an entire wall and drawing a direct continuous line between the past and contemporary history.” C. Coppola
François-Xavier Gbré grew up in Lille, was confronted with major urbanization works, economic growth and traces of a Côte d'Ivoire. He created his own landscapes through a series of photographs that revealed the invisible of everyday life. Linked by an often-distant perspective on architecture and landscape in a form of testimony of documentary, his work evokes the architectural photography of Lewis Baltz, Stephen Shore and Guy Tillim.
Gbré photographs abandoned architecture and traces of the social and political history of their countries of origin, from Mali to Israel, from Lille to Rabat. He carries out archiving work of forgotten buildings, public spaces and on the resilience of architecture. In the series on the urbanization of new Abidjan or the Eko Atlantic residential complex in Nigeria, he continues to question his own ever-changing world. With sensitivity to observing the state of the world, François-Xavier Gbré's photographs are a passage to an unexpected object, details that refers to the story of our present time and life. In the urban confusion that sometimes confuses us, he raises the question of our way of functioning, our social relations and relations to history.
The artist Roméo Mivekannin, born in Bouaké, Ivory Coast, seeks inspiration in photographic archival holdings and iconic paintings that are emblematic of Western art history. He focuses particularly on the ambiguous representations of black people who are anonymized, eroticized or objectified and aimed at the quasi-exclusive gaze of a male.
His black acrylic paintings on dye-bath elixir canvases embody the place of reassessment of a marked iconography, inherited from human trafficking and domination systems that were slavery and colonization. Drawing a line between the past and contemporary history, Mivekannin chooses to resume these historical facts and subvert their primary narrative in order to construct his vision of common tales. He currently lives and works in Cotonou, Bénin and Toulouse, France.
Quattara Watts is an American artist from Ivory Coast, now lives in the United States. In 1988, he met Jean-Michel Basquiat in Paris who was very impressed by Watts's paintings and convinced him to move to New York.
Through vibrant colours, dynamic shapes, and hypnotic signs and symbols, Watts explores the spiritual bonds that transcend geography and nationality. By merging found objects, photographs and raw material, his paintings invoke the artist's multicultural identity and offer various levels of social and historical readings. In his large-scale paintings, Watts creates the balance of extremes, merges opposites and harmonizes the chaos of the world.
GALERIE NATHALIE OBADIA
Paris / Bruxelles
Since the opening of their first gallery in Paris in 1993, followed by Brussels in 2008 and the second space in Paris in 2013, Galerie Nathalie Obadia has exhibited international emerging and well-established contemporary artists such as Youssef Nabil, Andres Serrano, Fabrice Hyber, Seydou Keïta, Nú Barreto, Guillaume Bresson, Patrick Faigenbaum.
“Here is, for instance, Nú Barreto, from São Domingos, Guinea-Bissau who currently lives and works in Paris. Nathalie Obadia brought a gorgeous series of illustrations to 1:54 covering the gallery’s entire wall space. The drawings seemed to be heavily influenced by Basquiat, and his signature crown mostly in blood-red in several of the sketches like “Traços Diario 2.”
With sharp pencils and red hues, Nú Barreto’s drawings highlight the socioeconomic disparities prevalent on the African continent. Using dry mediums, collage, reconstituted materials and new media, Barreto’s work has a strong symbolism expressed through form, colour and patterns. The artist’s alter ego, visible throughout his work, distorted by pain and fear, his agonised face testifying the reality of the socially and economically dispossessed people in the artist’s native country, Guinea-Bissau.
Driven by the conviction that art can inspire changes, Switzerland-based Wilde Gallery with a long history is dedicated to artistic practices of conceptual and intellectual rigour, which question our perception of the world. For over 30 years, the gallery has continued to support the evolving practices of established and emerging artists. In Basel, a second gallery was remodelled by French architect Andrée Putman and inaugurated in 2019. In 2020, Wilde opened a showroom in Zurich.
“I almost fell over an installation, a pair of skateboards on the floor, carefully positioned on a round mirror. Later I found out that it was Mounir Fatmi’s work whose previous installation "Ceux qui savent et Ceux qui ne savent pas" with white antenna cables and fastener pins was already hitting an estimate of near $100.000, so I saved a lot of money by not destroying the artwork.” C. Coppola
Mounir Fatmi was born in Tangiers, Morocco, and currently lives and works between Paris and Tangier. He spent most of his childhood at flea markets and considered that time as his first form of artistic education. He studied in Rome, Casablanca and Amsterdam. His installations, videos, drawings, paintings and sculptures bring to light our doubts, fears and desires.
Fatmi constructs visual environments comprising objects such as saw blades, stereo speakers, typewriters and antenna cables, and linguistic games that aim to free the viewer from their preconceptions of politics and religion and allow them to contemplate them from a different angle. In his previous work “The Machinery”, 30 aggressive industrial saw blades were inscribed with elaborately drawn Islamic poems relaying a peaceful message. "In the absence of evidence to the contrary" Fatmi used white neon tubes to imprint a temporary image in the eyes of the viewer. His work offers a look at the world from a different glance, refusing to be blinded by convention.
I saw his VHS-tape installation last year in Marrakesh and was praising his work at the time, however, had great difficulties with the inconsistency of his work Wilde Gallery presented at Christie’s.
“Rencontre 03, Dripping on Persian carpet” reminded me far too much of a Jackson Pollock’s paintings. Jackson Pollock in Africa?!? WHAT? We could be influenced by many subjects, colours, shapes, techniques but recreating another artist’s work or style? It is foolish to think that the viewer accepts anything in the name of “contemporary art” just because the paint was poured on a carpet.
The gallery displayed another piece by Fatmi, a pair of skateboards with applied prayer rugs positioned on a piece of mirror on the floor. I only had one question to ask: WHY? I have seen endless, customised skateboards by young creatives, especially in Californian seashore stores, and don’t get me wrong, I love skateboards and these ones were “pretty” but considering them as contemporary art because apparently - as the artist put it - they “symbolize similarities between skating and religion”?!?
Or was the association between skateboards and the prayer rug a kind of Middle East meets West cultural mash-mash? Of course, there is an attitude that fits with skaters, freedom, anti-establishment and lifestyle, and it can be a form of escape from reality. Or was it Fatmi’s minor obsession with our social, political, religious, or philosophical beliefs?
In 2009, André Magnin founded MAGNIN-A in Paris as a way of further developing artists' careers and participating in the contemporary African art market. MAGNIN-A represents many established artists along with young and emerging artists from across the continent including Malick Sidibé, Romuald Hazoumè, Omar Victor Diop. At 1:54 the gallery presented their artists at two different locations; on the first floor and at the entry of Christie’s.
“A rusty, 50s motorcycle with green glass buckets titled “Bunkeley” by Romuald Hazoumè was a ground-breaking statement by the gallery. Genius! Hazoumè is well-known for his controversial installations, metal containers of oil smugglers who risk their lives by crossing the border between Benin and Nigeria on motorcycles filled-up with adulterated oil.”
Hazoumè’s art is immediate but also complex and profound, dealing with political and sociological issues, and questions of identity, as well as pure aesthetics. The Artist is well-known for his installations of metal containers of oil smugglers. Once Hazoumè said of his work, “I send back to the West that belongs to them, that is to say, the refuse of consumer society that invades us every day.”
So, politicians, be aware!
San Gimignano / Roma / Beijing / São Paulo / Havana
Occupying a former cinema in an unexpected location in San Gimignano steeped in history, the gallery was founded in 1990 by Mario Cristiani, Lorenzo Fiaschi and Maurizio Rigillo, with the intention to give continuity to contemporary art in a landscape full of traces of ancient art.
In 2004, the gallery began a new adventure in Beijing, showing contemporary Western artists, and in 2015, they embarked on new paths, opening a space in La Habana, Cuba, devoting to cultural projects. In 2020, the gallery celebrated their 30 years of activity by inaugurating a new space in Rome and another in São Paulo.
“I was particularly drawn to Leila Alaoui’s only portrait without a face. Her depictions of individual faces and identities are both rich and inviting, but I guess I feel pulled by what is unseen or unspoken, even in an image.” C. Coppola
Outstanding French-Moroccan photographer Leila Alaoui was a rising star in the world of documentary photography, Her work explores the building of identity, cultural diversity and migration in the Mediterranean area. She used photography and video to express social issues through a visual language lying on the boundary between the documentary and the plastic arts. Since 2009, her works have been shown in various countries including the Institut du Monde Arabe and at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, in Paris; at Malmö Konsthall, Malmö; at Palácio da Cidadela, Lisbon; the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal, and in 2020, a large-scale retrospective at Somerset House, London.
In 2016, whilst working on a women’s rights campaign with Amnesty International, Alaoui was caught in gunfire during a terrorist attack in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, and three days later, at age 33, died of her wounds.
Alaoui’s images are both informed yet artistic, giving a human face to people who often become lost and misrepresented behind the waves of statistic numbers and news coverage. The Foundation Leila Alaoui in Marrakesh is preserving her work, defend her values, inspire and support artists working to promote human rights and dignity.
“At the same gallery, Pascal Marthine Tayou from Cameroon exhibited a couple of neon signs, one of which I especially liked called “Good Vibes, You are so sweet”. These signs caught my eye as I have only recently fallen quite hard for Tracey Emin’s words. I like the bold statements, a refusal to be overlooked, bright lights that roar to the eyes to be heard.”
Pascale Marthine Tayou
From the beginning of his career, Cameroon-born, Belgium-based artist Pascale Marthine Tayou has added an “e” to his first and middle name to give them a feminine ending, thus distancing himself ironically from the importance of artistic authorship and male-female ascriptions.
Tayou is renowned for combining found and discarded objects and materials, often sourced locally with a skilled and playful sense of craftsmanship. His works not only establish a link between cultures and nature within an ambivalent interaction but they are also produced in the knowledge that they are social, cultural, or political constructions.
For 1:54 Pascale Marthine Tayou has created a couple of limited-edition neon signs. Humour and warmth are never far from Tayou’s sculptural practice, which encompasses a wide variety of natural, handcrafted and mass-produced materials. His frequent use of neon signs translates the fluidity of a drawing or handwritten passage into an industrially-produced object, bringing multiple readings and associations.
Galerie SEPTIEME is a contemporary art gallery in Paris that opened in October 2019 by founders Julie Banâtre and Léa Perier Loko. The artists the gallery represents share a sharp critical sense and a willingness to go beyond the medium and through a universal language.
“I simply loved the corner installation the gallery created with Andrew Tshabangu’s black & white photographs documenting the rituals of black communities in urban Africa.” C. Coppola
Andrew Tshabangu was born in Dube, Soweto. In the past twenty years, practising black and white photography, Tshabangu has played an important role in redefining South Africa’s visual landscape. He studied at the Institute of Advancement for Journalism and the Alexandra Community Art Center in Johannesburg but photography was not his first choice of profession, he was initially interested in pursuing a number of other careers. He gained an interest in teaching than became a journalist.
Today, Tshabangu is known for his social documentary photographic work, which was shown in a large-scale retrospective entitled “Footprints” at Standard Bank Gallery. His photographic work has been exhibited in South Africa and around the world including MAXXI in Rome and the Dakar Biennale.
GALLERY THIS IS NOT A WHITE CUBE
The Gallery This Is Not A White Cube (TINAWC) is an international contemporary art gallery with locations in Lisbon, Portugal, and Luanda, Angola. The gallery was founded by Sónia Ribeiro and was one of the first galleries in Angola in 2016, representing contemporary Angolan artists at the time.
The gallery is a multidisciplinary space and exhibits emerging and established artists from eight different countries – Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, South Africa, Brazil, São Tomé Príncipe and Portugal. With a focus in historical and contemporary narratives within the globalization context, with a particular reference to social change, dominant narratives and social repair, the gallery presents work through its annual exhibition programme and participation in international art fairs.
“René Tavares is one of the gallery’s artists. His thought-provoking painting “United States of African Memories” was definitely a powerful, eye-catching work.” C. Coppola
Lisbon-based, René Tavares from the island country São Tomé and Príncipe, takes inspiration from a medieval text, “The Tragedy of the Emperor Charlemagne” and the “Marquis of Mantua”, which were reinvented by the people of São Tomé and Príncipe, called Tchiloli.
Tchiloli has become a symbol of resistance to the former Portuguese colonial dominion. This renaissance heritage is nowadays considered as one of the richest cultural traditions of São Tomé and Príncipe, being its application to Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity currently pending. His thoughts start, therefore, from a reference to São Tomé and Príncipe colonial history and get mixed with the present reality lived by the artist in several European and African geographies.
LOFT ART GALLERY
Loft Art Gallery, founded in 2009 by Myriem and Yasmine Berrada Sounni, has worked, since its inception, to highlight the modern and contemporary art scene on the African continent and its diaspora. With a consistent dedication to research and publication on art history and a program that alternates monographic and collective exhibitions, Loft Art Gallery has contributed to the influence of the art scene within the Moroccan kingdom. The gallery has collaborated with institutions including Center Pompidou, Paris; Tate Modern, London; MATHAF The Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha and Haus der Kunst, Munich.
“I discovered an extraordinary series by a Moroccan photographer Mous Lamrabat whose work stood out among the other artists by his use of colour and understated humour. I loved his portrait “Love at first sight” of a kissing couple without revealing their gender, “Slow it Down” depicting a man with a motorcycle helmet and “My Alleries” with a mask of flowers enveloping his entire face. “Ceci n’est pas un Magritte” confirmed his humorous take on the famous surrealist Magritte painting." C. Coppola
"Lamrabat knows how to tackle his subjects with irony. Each portrait made me stop to see the ironical edge of his work, and as in life, it reminded me to take those small moments as little treasures to carry you through the events and people that are so often so difficult to deal with. A little humour goes a long way. His use of vibrant colour was also distinctly refreshing at a time when people seem to have become accustomed to only wearing black, a human landscape without joy.” C. Coppola
Mous Lamrabat is a Moroccan-Belgian photographer who lives and works in Ghent, Belgium. after finishing his studies as an interior architect, started to develop an interest in photography. Photography gave him the satisfaction of instant creativity and an immediate result. Self-taught, he was able to reinvent fashion photography, which he treats with satire, a way for him to denounce consumer society, mixing ostentatious luxury and counterfeiting according to Moroccan cultural references. Most of his models have masked faces and bodies and appear in Moroccan landscapes. Lamrabat's mission is to show Moroccan culture from a new perspective.
“It’s worth mentioning another photographer, M’hammed Kilito and his work “Untitled #2”, a portrait of an empty and decrepit theatre. This reminded me of old buildings that one sees out in the California desert, sometimes a theatre, a gas station, even whole main streets left from the Old West, still standing in the dry heat.” C.Coppola
Independent Moroccan photographer and visual storyteller, co-founder of KOZ Collective, M'hammed Kilito is based in Rabat with a stunning visual style as well as a thirst for finding new ways of telling stories. He focuses on issues related to cultural identity, sociology and human conditions in Morocco. His work begins with a long period of meticulous academic research, Kilito is enthusiastic as well as inquisitive, with a desire to help change the industry by encouraging the work of photographers from developing nations.
Anas (18) - picture above - says he has problems with his family. At home, they do not call him by his first name but refer to him pejoratively as "the tattooed one." Tattooed people in Moroccan culture are considered criminals, prisoners and dangerous people. (Salé, Morocco, March 2018).
“Among You” reflects on the choices of Moroccan youth around their personal identity. Kilito documents young people who have taken their destiny into their own hands. These individuals have the courage to choose their own realities, often pushing the limits of society further. Whether through their creative activities, their appearance, or their sexuality, they convey the image of a young Morocco, claiming the right to be different, and celebrating diversity.
“These young people, whose minds embody the resistance of a palm tree – a tree adapted to the harshest Moroccan climatic conditions – defy the conservative and traditional norms of Moroccan society daily. They cultivate their private oasis despite the obstacles they encounter in a country that they feel is not progressing at the same pace as they are, and they are inspiring others along the way,” M’hammed Kilito
In 2006, Galerie 127 opened its doors in Guéliz of Marrakech to focus on contemporary photography of the Maghreb. It is the first and only gallery in Morocco exclusively devoted to photography. Founder-Director Nathalie Locatelli has organised more than 80 exhibitions of Moroccan and international photographers, participated in international art fairs including ParisPhoto (Paris), ParisPhoto (Los Angeles), 1:54 (London), 1:54 (Marrakesh), Akaa (Paris) and now 1:54 (Paris).
In 2020, the gallery presented a dual exhibition "À Quatre Mains" with sculptor Nicolas Lefebvre and photographer Sara Imloul, and simultaneously, during 1:54 Marrakesh at La Mamounia Hotel, the gallery set up a group show including the exquisite series of "Le Caire", and "Mères et Fils" of much-acclaimed photographer Denis Dailleux.
In 2021, for the Paris edition of 1:54, the gallery brought the works of Mouna Saboni, Sara Imloul, Fatima Mazmouz, Carolle Bénitah and Mo Baala to Christie’s.
“It was a great pleasure to meet gallery owner Nathalie Locatelli who presented Sara Imloul’s unique photographs. “L’Eléphant”, her black & white Calotype print of a palm tree was simply outstanding and although she employed a very different technique and approach, the photograph reminded me of Sarah Moon’s picture of a palm tree “The End of Vacation”.
Palm trees, for me, have been always something of a marker in my travels; a soothing breeze, a hot gaze of the sun. They remind me of being very little and lying flat on my back in our Hollywood bungalow courtyard of a movie studio lined with palm trees, the hard dates falling around you, just missing one’s head. When I saw Imloul’s portrayal, these images were suddenly conjured in my mind’s eye, as if looking backwards through my memories.”
Paris-based Sara Imloul started her first series in 2008, “Black Circus”, after discovering calotype, a photographic process invented in the 19th century that enabled the production of paper negatives and hence the reproduction of contact images. Since, she has developed personal techniques in her lab that made it possible to turn her mysterious, dreamlike universe into images.
Her earlier series, “Negatives” (2012), comprises of individual 4×5 camera images where the pictures are composed of unique photographic prints made directly on baryte paper in the view camera. In “Passages, from Shade to Images” (2019) a series was woven together like internal archaeology, a photographic reliquary of mental images. Her last series “À Quatre Mains” was a joint project with sculptor Nicolas Lefebvre, in which through the eyes of the photographer the sculptor’s works took on a timeless dimension, like sacred ancestral archives.
“Mouna Saboni was another artist at Galerie 127 who had beautiful B/W and colour images that gave a moment of reflection and serenity. Her landscapes were exquisite.” C. Coppola
The Franco-Moroccan artist Mouna Saboni was born in Rennes and following her studies in Social and Solidarity Economics, she joined the National School of Photography in Arles. Saboni’s photographic work focuses on the quest for identity that she questions through personal memories intimately linked to the territory.
Through long-term projects carried out in the Palestinian territories, Morocco and Brazil, she questions her relationship with these places. Saboni has developed projects focusing on Morocco that make use of text and calligraphy alongside her photographic work. She has already exhibited her work in Mexico, the Netherlands, China and Japan and participated in “Les Rencontres d’Arles” in France.
Nil Gallery is a contemporary art gallery and an art residence located in the Marais of Paris. It was founded in 2016 by Paul William and Hugo Zeitoun. The gallery maintains a strong relationship with artists from Africa. For the 1:54 Paris Edition Nil gallery presented a group show with the works of Prince Gyasi, Abe Odedina and Saint Etienne Yeanzi.
As I was navigating through the online platform of Christie’s visiting Nil Gallery’s site from my London office, I was consulting with C. Coppola in real-time. Then she messaged me:
“I totally agree with you, Prince Gyasi is definitely a favourite. He is the most significant and striking photographer in the entire art fair and simply stole the show. The blatant force and use of saturated colours were jaw-dropping, exquisite, each one more beautiful than the last. I could not stop looking into these deeply wondrous images. I have to admit that his gallerist was equally convincing.” C Coppola
Prince Gyasi is a 23-year-old Ghanaian visual artist who creates bold, colour images that aim to make suppressed narratives more prominent. Gyasi is inspired by the stories of marginalised individuals who have often pushed aside in society. The Accra cityscape and its inhabitants are the frameworks as most of his images are created in his hometown of Accra, using the surrounding landscapes and community as his muse. Each hyper colourful print reveals fundamental human emotions that are tied in with life, fatherhood, motherhood, childhood.
Gyasi deliberately stays away from professional photographic equipment, choosing an iPhone instead when capturing silhouettes placed against brightly altered landscapes and vivid backgrounds. His images give off a particular feeling of strength and resilience. Gyasi likes playing with colours, a lot of colours. His art showcases the nobility and grace of black skin, offering viewers a counter-narrative to dominant notions of beauty.
GALERIE DOMINIQUE FIAT
The gallery develops a multitude of artistic practices in various mediums. Its transdisciplinary approach has allowed the discovery of a number of talents, with multiple forms of expression like Camille Henrot, Californian artists Ed Moses and Ed Ruscha. By taking an interest in non-Western and particularly the MENASA scene from 2009, the Gallery exhibited Hicham Berrada at Palais de Tokyo, in Paris and Villa Médicis, in Rome.
In 2017, Dominique Fiat initiated and organized Afriques Capitales at the Grande Halle de la Villette, Paris, a contemporary art exhibition of fifty artists from Africa and its diaspora, coupled with music, dance and performance.
“I loved the larger-than-life-size portrait “Ibrahim” by Senegal photographer Maïmouna Guerresi. Her levitating images portray bodies that suggest mystical dimensions.” C. Coppola
Maïmouna Guerresi is a Veneto-based Italian-Senegalese artist who works in photography, sculpture, video and installation in African, Asian and European culture following her conversion to Islam.
Her work symbolizes an intimate perspective on the spirituality of human beings in relation to their intimate mystical dimensions. The hybridization of her work toward the spirituality and ancestry of African, Asian, and European cultures reflects her own vision of globalization in art and life. The metaphors, the lights, hijabs, trees, and black and white contrast create an awareness of the vital unifying qualities of Islamic spirituality.
The sculptural, almost architectural creations fuse the face and limbs of the subject with the space around them, some levitating, others bodiless, their cloaks encompassing an empty expanse with their heads floating above. Guerresi’s images become an appreciation of shared humanity beyond psychological, cultural and political boundaries heavily influenced by Sufi traditions in Kenya, Sudan, and Morocco.
A SHOOTING STAR
Swift, cruel and an incredible rise of Amoako Boafo.
Based in Vienna, Amoako Boafo, award-winning portraiture and figurative painter from Accra, Ghana, was one of the hottest artists at Art Basel Miami. Although he did not show at 1:54 Paris 2021 edition, he is absolutely worth mentioning … and collecting.
The unusual technique Boafo uses results in thick, wavy, tendon-like strokes of paint, leads to comparisons with Egon Schiele. He was practically unknown in the US until the painter Kehinde Wiley, fresh off unveiling his portrait of President Barack Obama, discovered Boafo’s Instagram page in 2018. Wiley sent an introduction to his Los Angeles dealers of Roberts Projects and Boafo’s exhibition was an immediate success. His rapid rise in fortunes continued, when his work appeared in an auction for the first time. His painting of a woman in a lemon bathing suit, originally estimated at £30,000, fetched a staggering £675,000.
Boafo went from unknown to red-hot market star in a little over a year.
Boafo recently launched a collaboration with Dior men’s Artistic Director Kim Jones, making him the first African artist to develop a line with the French fashion house. Their meeting at the Rubell Museum in Miami was an artistic love at first sight; Kim Jones and Amoako Boafo had a true mutual admiration for each other’s work. As part of the arrangement, Dior is currently helping to fund a sprawling new studio complex for him in Accra, which will have space for an artist-in-residence as well as a gallery run by local creatives.
2021 February - Amoako Boafo is selected for TIME100 NEXT, highlighting 100 emerging extraordinary artists and leaders who are shaping the future.
Art and Culture is a necessity
“As I was leaving Christie’s I gave my sincere gratitude to Touria El Glaoui, founder-director of 1:54 to make it possible to visit this unique event. No quote could describe it better than the young American beacon of light, Amanda Gorman's: “There is always light if only we're brave enough to see it.” C. Coppola
Photo-montage by Zoltan Alexander
Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA with the participation of the following artists:
photo © Courtesy of Mous Lamrabat at Loft Art Gallery and Pascale Marthine Tayou at Galleria Continua
Directed by Zoltan Alexander
Production: ZOLTAN+MEDIA London
Music: “Liberation” by OutKast,
feat. CeeLo Green / Vocals: Big Boi,
Erykah Badou, Whild Peach
℗ 1998 Arista Records LLC
9 Avenue Matignon, 75008 Paris, France
Tickets: by invitation only / strict safety rules apply / pre-reserved time-slots
1:54 CONTEMPORARY AFRICAN ART FAIR
20 - 23 January 2021 / Paris
May 2021 / New York
October 2021 / London
Special thank you to Cori Coppola for her participation.
"House of Cardin"
A documentary including exclusive access to Pierre Cardin's archives and unprecedented interviews.
Directed by P. David Ebersole & Todd Hughes
Produced by Cori Coppola