Christie's Dubai shows exhibition of West African art

Works by artists from Ghana and Nigeria are on display until mid-December

Christie’s Dubai has partnered with Gallery 1957 from Ghana for an exhibition of African artists called [West] African Renaissance.

The exhibition brings artists with the Accra gallery to Christie's in DIFC for a month, from Godfried Donkor, an established Ghanaian artist, to the young Gideon Appah, a painter of enigmatic scenes.

Gallery 1957 is an ambitious space that opened only five years ago in Accra, the capital of Ghana. This isn’t its first partnership with the UAE; in 2018, the gallery collaborated with Lawrie Shabibi in Alserkal Avenue for a show of artist Serge Attukwei Clottey, who repurposes the ubiquitous jerry can in Ghana to make sculptures and installations. In this new exhibition, he shows charcoal drawings that reflect on Western colonial usage of African masks.

In 2020, Gallery 1957 opened an outpost in South Kensington, London, and this year it launched an award to support Ghanaian women artists. Titled after a Ghanaian queen, Yaa Asantewaa Art Prize gives its recipient $6,500, a residency and a show at the gallery.

The space is keen to address the lack of international visibility that has been a regular problem for African art galleries.

“Working with Christie’s, a vocal promoter of African Contemporary art internationally is an obvious fit,” says Marwan Zakhem, Gallery 1957 founder. “Our focus has always been to support the careers of West African artists, and to ensure they continue to reach new audiences on the global stage. In partnering with Christie’s Dubai, the ever-flourishing creativity of the continent will continue to be seen by international audiences in a part of the world where collectors have long championed our work.”

Christie’s has been active in showing African art recently. Last year, they supported 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair which was unable to run as usual because of the Covid pandemic. The auction house instead hosted curated exhibitions drawn from the fair’s galleries in their New York and Paris spaces.

Christie's declined to elaborate on how the profit from the new Dubai exhibition would be split. However, this kind of collaboration is a relatively new model that shows how auction houses, particularly emboldened by success during the pandemic, are moving into new fields.

The artists from Gallery 1957 show a cross section of work now being produced in Ghana during an exceptionally fruitful time in the nation's contemporary art history. Many of the artists are already internationally known, such as Donkor or Kwesi Botchway, and portraiture – the deliberate reconsideration of a European classical idiom – is a key strategy, from the Surrealist paintings of Donor, Appah and Joshua Oheneba-Takyi, to the more classical woks of Isshaq Ismail, Annan Affotey and Lord Ohene.

The gallery also showcases works made by artists from Nigeria, such as painters Oliver Okolo, Juwon Aderemi and Ojingiri Peter.

[West] African Renaissance is on view at Christie’s Dubai until December 14. More information is available at christies.com

Updated: November 26th 2021, 5:17 AM