Discovering the Undiscovered: Armory Show’s Focus This Year on African Art

The Armory Show is one of New York’s most famous and important international art fairs, offering high-quality modern and contemporary art with a focus on new and emerging voices in the visual arts world. This year’s Focus is African Perspectives—Spotlighting Artistic Practices of Global Contemporaries. It will examine the art world from a contemporary African viewpoint and give attendees the chance to experience the work of African and African Diasporic artists in the context of the global art scene.

African Art

Image courtesy of The Armory Show. Right: Ed Young, ALL SO FUCKING AFRICAN, 2016. Images courtesy of SMAC Gallery and The Armory Show.

Africa has long been wracked by political upheaval and societal change, but it is often ignored or at least under-acknowledged by the western world. In the same spirit, Africa’s contribution to the arts is frequently overlooked or relegated to the realm of “crafts” rather than being recognized as fine art. Of course, Africa is home to a multitude of different cultures, each with their own rich artistic history. This year’s Armory Show is a timely reminder of the value of African art and a much-needed challenge to Western preconceptions about it.

At ARTDEX, our mission is to spread art across the world and Africa is no exception. We’re thrilled about the 2016 Armory Show Focus theme and we can’t wait to learn more about what’s going on in contemporary African art. These are a few of the artists we’re most excited to see:

1. Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga

Represented by October Gallery, London, UK (www.octobergallery.co.uk) Pier 94, Armory Show Focus, Booth 534

Kamuanga was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, trained at the Kinshasa Academy of Arts and founded M’Pongo, the Congolese art collective that represents the vibrant and dynamic artistic scene of Kinshasa. His “Mangbetu” series is inspired by the Mangbetu people, whose traditional warrior culture is currently threatened by the postcolonial modernization transforming the DRC.

Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga Abandonnes

Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga, Abandonnés, 2015, October Gallery

Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga Lost

Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga, Lost, 2015, October Gallery

2. Nengi Omuku

Represented by Omenka Gallery, Lagos, Nigeria (http://www.omenkagallery.com), Pier 94, Armory Show Focus, Booth 552

Omuku was born in Nigeria and educated at the Slade School of Art at the University College of London; she currently lives and works in Port Harcourt. She has won multiple awards, including the prestigious British Council CHOGM art award, presented by HRH Queen Elizabeth II in 2003. Her work often features floating spaces and metaphoric figures and shapes in vibrant colors, evoking a sense of escapism.

Nengi Omuku Boys Follow Me

Nengi Omuku, Boys Follow Me, 2016, Omenka Gallery

Nengi Omuku Together Forever

Nengi Omuku, Together Forever, 2014, Omenka Gallery

3. Dan Halter

Represented by WHATIFTHEWORLD, Cape Town, South Africa (http://www.whatiftheworld.com), Pier 94, Armory Show Focus, Booth 550

Halter explores collective history and contemporary identity politics in his conceptual art and sculptural installations. His work frequently emphasizes the history of European colonialism and issues of racial and ethnic identity. His use of common materials, patterns, and maps encourage viewers to confront the tension between reality and fabrication in the geopolitical sphere and its very real effects on the lives of contemporary Africans.

He says, “My artistic practice is informed by my position as a Zimbabwean currently living in South Africa. My work deals with my sense of dislocated national identity, human migration and the dark humour of present realities in Southern Africa—largely a backlash to a history of oppression that continues to this day. I use ubiquitous materials and employ local popular visual strategies as a form of expression. This often exploits the language of craft and curio in a conceptual art context.”

Dan Halter Patterns of Migration 2

Patterns of Migration 2, 2016, Found plastic-weave bags, custom-made tartan fabric, mannequin legs and Adidas ZX Flux CLOT, Dimensions variable, Series of 5

Dan Halter A Colonial Hangover

Colonial Hangover, 2016, Hand-woven archival ink-jet prints 85 x 87 cm, Edition of 3

 

 

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