A report by Victoria Valentine for Culture Type.
IN LONDON THIS WEEK, the vision of Black women is shaping the 1-54 London and Frieze London art fairs. Both are underway with hybrid online and in-person formats this season. Eva Langret is the new artistic director of Frieze London. She tapped Zoé Whitley to curate a new section of the fair called Possessions. At the 1-54 African Contemporary Art Fair, Julia Grosse and Yvette Mutumba have planned a compelling slate for 1-54 Forum, a series of public conversations with artists and curators from throughout the Diaspora.
While a limited schedule of events unfold in London, digital content and special online viewing platforms make the fairs accessible to international audiences able to explore programming and gallery presentations from anywhere in the world.
Eva Langret became artistic director of Frieze London in November 2019 and is overseeing her first edition of the art fair this week. Frieze London is open to the public Oct. 8-11. (VIP preview days were Oct 6 and 7.). Given precautions and considerations necessary due the COVID-19 pandemic, the art fair has been reinvented. The art fair booths are online with 250 galleries exhibiting works on the Frieze viewing room platform (free email sign in required).
“We’ve been working really hard to keep the fair as imaginative and innovative and exciting as ever,” Langret said in a video introduction of Frieze (below).
She highlights a spectrum of presentations, installations, and programming in the video, including Frieze Sculpture; Frieze Talks (participating artist and curators include Lubaina Himid, Tavares Strachan, Ekow Eshun, John Akomfrah, Zoé Whitley, Michael Armitage, Rashid Johnson, Jordan Casteel, and Amanda Hunt); Frieze Focus, highlighting young galleries showing up-and-coming artists; and Live, which presents sound and performance art (artists include Denzil Forrester, Anthea Hamilton, and Alvaro Barrington).
The Frieze tent is gone this year with exhibitors moving artwork showings online, but Live events are happening in-person on Cork Street in the vicinity of local galleries. In addition, Frieze Sculpture features outdoor installations by 12 artists, including Lubaina Himid, in Regent’s Park.
“We’ve been working really hard to keep [Frieze London] as imaginative and innovative and exciting as ever.” — Artistic Director Eva Langret
Possessions, a new themed section presented online, explores the intersection of art and spirituality. Whitley, director of Chisenhale Gallery in East London, curated Possessions. The section features nine artists, including Dewey Crumpler, Mike Cloud, and Buhlebezwe Siwani. “Artists so often attune us to these different ways of thinking about the spiritual,” Whitley said in a video about Possessions (below).
Chicago-based Cloud produces his abstract paintings on canvases shaped like the Star of David, for example. “He’s able to create these memorials, the unusual structures that are able to help us think about death and religious belief in a manner that I had never seen before,” Whitley said.
Glasgow-based multidisciplinary artist Alberta Whittle received the Frieze Artist Award 2020. Her “creative practice is motivated by the desire to manifest self-compassion and collective care as key methods in battling anti-blackness. She choreographs interactive installations, using film, sculpture and performance as site-specific artworks in public and private spaces.”
Whittle was commissioned to produce a special project being screened online during Frieze London. “RESET” (2020), her 32-minute short film is informed by the writings of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, an American scholar focused on gender studies and queer theory.
“Frieze Week is about celebrating our galleries. It’s about celebrating our artists. Celebrating institutions throughout the world. And it’s celebrating our cities,” Langret said. “In this very moment, I think Frieze Week means resilience and it means community.”
MIKE CLOUD, “Shopping List Greener Pastures,” 2020 (oil on linen with mixed media, 67 x 116 x 4 inches / 170 x 294.6 x 10 cm).
FOUNDED BY MOROCCAN-BORN Touria El Glaoui, the 1-54 art fair launched in London in 2013. Seven years later, the art fair is adjusting in the wake of the pandemic. After canceling its New York edition in May, the fair shifted to an online only presentation via Artsy. Five months later, 1-54 is returning to what for now is a new normal in London.
Showcasing African contemporary from 30 international galleries by more than 110 artists, the 1-54 art fair is taking place at Somerset House in London (Oct. 8-10), with COVID-19 safety measures in place, due to the ongoing pandemic.
New this year, there is a pop-up exhibition at Christie’s London (Oct. 7-12). Online, the art fair can be experienced via a digital platform powered by Christie’s (Oct. 7-12) and available artworks can be viewed via Artsy (Oct. 7-22)
Hosted in person and accessible online, this year’s 1:54 Forum talk series is curated by Berlin-based Julia Grosseand Yvette Mutumba, the founders and co-editors of Contemporary And and Contemporary And América Latina. The free discussions explore global connections and shared histories with a general focus on Latinx and Afro-Caribbean identities.
“We managed to invite a superb selection of contributors, literally from all over the world, coming together and discussing thoughts and contexts and concepts around artistic production in Latin America and the Caribbean in relation to Africa and the rest of the global Diaspora,” Grosse said in a video introducing the Focus platform. “We are going to talk to them, and exchange ideas digitally and physically.”
“We managed to invite a superb selection of contributors, literally from all over the world, coming together and discussing thoughts and contexts and concepts around artistic production in Latin America and the Caribbean in relation to Africa and the rest of the global Diaspora.” — Julia Grosse
Aldeide Delgado, a curator and founding director of the Women Photographers International Archive in Miami, Fla., gave the keynote address: What is Latinx? Subsequent panels explore Brazilian art scenes, Afro-Colombian perspectives, and Western interest in Caribbean art histories, among other topics.
On Oct. 10, Grosse and are moderating a panel on global connections with Togo-born arist Koffi Mensah, Nigeria-born, London-based artist Evan Ifekoya, and Sepake Angiama, director at Iniva (Institute of International Visual Arts) in London.
The Forum program is titled: I Felt Like a Black Guy From New York Trapped in Peru, which is a quote from Afro-Peruvian graffiti artist Entes. The Lima-born artist is featured in the final Forum talk about the African legacy in Argentina, Mexico and Peru on Oct. 11.
BACK AT FRIEZE, the art fair is collaborating on a fellowship. The opportunity is designed to provide training for young curator of color who will work at Chisenhale Gallery for 18 months, with a full salary and a stipend for essentials such as a laptop, as well as travel and research.
British artist Idris Khan designed a face mask being sold to benefit the fellowship. A new mask edition by British artist and filmmaker John Akomfrah, forthcoming later this month, will also support the opportunity.
In a conversation with Chrystal Genesis, a London-based journalist and curator, Whitley explained how the Frieze × Deutsche Bank Emerging Curators Fellowship came about.
“Over the years, as two black women in the arts, we’ve had a lot of conversations about what representation means, how we create more equitable pathways, and what it means to actually put into practice the things that you believe,” Whitley said.
“As the pandemic caused so much to come to an absolute standstill, there was a really acute sense of how much we’re all connected as an art ecosystem. Eva and I were really thinking about a collective momentum. Everyone is saying they want to do something, so how do we really make something happen?”