Dan Halter. “Patterns of Migration 2” (2016)Found plastic-weave bags, custom-made tartan fabric, mannequin legs and Adidas ZX Flux CLOT.Dimensions variable. Edition of 5. Courtesy of the artist and WHATIFTHEWORLD, Cape Town.
In among the gallerina smiles and the polite chink of champagne glasses at this year’s annual Armory Show in New York, African contemporary art steps into the limelight at Pier 94. The seventh outing of the fair’s invited Special Focus section that homes in on the artistic output of a particular geographic region this year is entitled ‘African Perspectives’.
Fourteen African galleries and galleries representing African artists will be devoting their booths to primarily solo presentations of contemporary African artists’ work. From Cape Town to Lagos, Abidjan to Nairobi, as one expects, the assembled presentations give an interesting insight into the diversity – and similarities – of contemporary art across the African continent.
And, dotted around the fair (unfortunately occasionally in locations such as the VIP Lounge to which not everyone will have access) Julia Grosse and Yvette Mutumba, founders of the Contemporary And, an online resource focusing on African perspectives in art, have curated a special project of works by eight African and Diasporan artists, most of them hot emerging talents on the international contemporary art scene.
For example, there’s South African Athi-Patra Ruga, whose bright, fantastical works span everything from the from embroidery (such as the work shown in this project) to large-scale synchronised swimming performances, an unexpected antithesis of contemporary art addressing serious issues such as oppression, exile and migration, which it actually does – and probably all the more engaging for its often irreverent manifestations.
Or there is the work of Kapwani Kiwanga, who is also this year’s prestigious Armory Show Commissioned Artist, who uses video, performance and installation works to explore a vast slew of topics with an Afrocentric point of view, such as the commissioned work that takes the United Nations Art Collection as its starting point to investigate how donated and gifted art works are used to create a national and cultural identity in this rather odd – and implicitly (geo)political- institution.
Needless to say, for a very limited time only.
Athi-Patra Ruga. ‘The Night of the Long Knives I'(2013) Archival ink-jet print on Photorag Baryta. 190 x 150cm. Courtesy of the artist and WHATIFTHEWORLD, Cape Town.