African Art in London

London / Art / Africa

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Roelof Petrus van Wyk @ Jack Bell Gallery

Roelof Petrus van Wyk’s camera lens attempts to flip the focus of the colonial gaze. His images recall Golden Age Dutch portraits – all dark in background, subjects in concentrated light –  and aim to explore whiteness. What whiteness is and what it means especially for young post-apartheid South Africans.  White as other, whiteness to be pondered, prodded and understood.

From the Young Afrikaner series of photographs by Roelof Petrus van Wyk

Explaining the through-line inspiration for his work van Wyk says: “Part of the apartheid propaganda was that we the Afrikaners were the ‘chosen volk’, as in the bible. We’re not chosen. We are Africans. We are part of Africa and we are exploring what that identity means.”

Van Wyk’s work has been shown in London before as part of the Victoria and Albert Museum’s ‘Figures and Fictions: Contemporary South African Photography’.

Exhibition: 6-16 March

Opening Hours: Tues- Sat, 10-6

Jack Bell Gallery
13 Mason’s Yard, St James’s, London


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serial attempts: Berti, Ferreira, Gbaguidi @ news of the world gallery

From Conciliabule series - Pélagie Gbaguidi (2003-2006)

From Conciliabule artist’s notebook series – Pélagie Gbaguidi (2003-2006)

Christine Eyene‘s latest curatorial project in London, serial attempts, brings together three artists working in different media to explore the creative process of art-making, in which ‘serial attempts’ are made to achieve the often unachievable.

Cecilia Ferreira (Mozambique/South Africa) presents an experimental video, The Chaos Within (2009); Cristiano Berti (Italy) contributes a sound installation, Happy (2004); and Pélagie Gbaguidi (Benin/Belgium) shows notes and sketches from the series Conciliabule (2003-2006). This last work inspired ‘process: immaterial proposal’, Eyene’s wider project aiming to ‘apprehend art, notably produced by African artists, beyond fixed narratives, representations, and identities’. More info here.

Show: on now, but not sure of dates… try calling/texting Pierre Coinde or Gary O’Dwyer on 07851 318 230, or emailing

Opening hours: every Friday and Saturday, 12-6

news of the world gallery
50 Resolution Way, Deptford, London

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Alexandra Makhlouf @ Fred [London]

139 (2012) - Alexandra Makhlouf

139 (2012) – Alexandra Makhlouf

South African artists seem to be taking over London (or at least this blog) at the moment: William Kentridge has just been occupying one of Tate Modern’s Tanks, Peter Clarke has a big solo exhibition at Iniva, and now relative newcomer Alexandra Makhlouf has a show at Fred [London]. Using watery ink, she creates ghostly forms whose presence on paper seems only transitory; the artist describes this impermanence as a ‘return to blankness’, relating it to the silencing effect produced by certain political machinations in South Africa. More info here.

Show: until 23rd Feb

Opening hours: Tues-Fri 10-6, Sat 11-6 or by appointment

Fred [London]
17 Riding House Street, London

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Peter Clarke @ Rivington Place

Peter Clarke

Peter Clarke

To welcome in the new year, Iniva presents Wind Blowing on the Cape Flats, a major retrospective of the work of South African artist Peter Clarke. Clarke has chronicled South Africa’s social and political history for the last sixty years, but his work is largely unknown to UK audiences; this show promises to change that.

There’s a curator’s tour on 31st January with Tessa Jackson, and several other events to keep an eye on, including a talk by Professor Annie E. Coombes on 7th March, exploring ‘women’s art practice in South Africa as an alternative political arena’.

Show: until 9th March

Opening hours: Tues, Weds, Fri 11am – 6pm, Thurs late opening until 9pm, Sat 12-6pm

Rivington Place, London


William Kentridge @ Tate Modern

I am not me, the horse is not mine – William Kentridge in collaboration with Philip Miller and Catherine Meyburgh (2008)

I first had a look around the Tanks at Tate Modern about three years ago, just before the renovations began. It was easy to see the potential in the cavernous, booming spaces, and there were even a few films installed to give an impression of how things would look. But there was an awful lot of work to do to make it suitable for showing art: the constant drip, drip of water, the dangerously uneven surfaces, the crime-scene-style yellow tape cordoning off dangling live wires overhead… I even saw the remains of a crab lurking by a shallow puddle. I kid you not.

Many months later and it’s a different story. The Tanks are proving to be one of the most exciting new art spaces in London, with an ambitious and varied programme of films, installations, live art and performances which in different ways draw the audience directly into conversation with the artwork. Tate Modern Director Chris Dercon has suggested that it is ‘the true meeting of artworks and audiences that will establish what the Tanks are and can be’. It’ll be interesting to see how visitors respond in these spaces which, a bit like the turbine hall, are both overwhelmingly large and somehow approachable.

Coming up soon is an eight-channel video installation I am not me, the horse is not mine by South African artist William Kentridge, which promises to make the most of the space. It’s an intriguingly bonkers idea drawn from Kentridge’s recent staging of Dmitri Shostakovich’s 1930 opera The Nose, which is in turn based on an absurdist short story of the same name written almost 100 years earlier by Nikolai Gogol. In the story, the nose disappears from the face of a Russian official, only to reappear on the face of one of his superiors. [correction: it takes on a life of its own. As they do.] For Kentridge, The Nose is a platform for examining the rise and fall of Russian avant-gardes in the 1920s and 30s, both as a celebration of the flourishing of creative energies, and an elegy for their eventual demise.

The installation combines live action film, archival footage and stop-motion animation, and has previously been shown in conjunction with a performance by the artist. There’s more info about this and other work on this website from MoMA which was produced at the time of his excellent solo show there in 2010.

Back at Tate Modern, don’t miss the artist’s talk in the Starr Auditorium on Sunday 11th November, 14.00 – 15.30, £12 (concessions available) – for more info and to book tickets, take a look here.

Show: 11 Nov 2012 – 20 Jan 2013

Opening hours: Sun-Thurs, 10.00-18.00, Fri-Sat, 10.00-22.00

Tate Modern
Bankside, London

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Louis Maqhubela @ Art First

Louis Maqhubela

I’m pretty excited about this exhibition of new paintings by veteran South African artist Louis Maqhubela. He’s been exhibiting (and living) in London for donkey’s years, and recently had a touring retrospective exhibition in South Africa, A Vigil of Departure (1960 – 2010). You can read more about his work and life here.

Show: 14 Nov – 20 Dec

Opening hours: Tues-Fri 10-6, Sat 11-4

Art First
21 Eastcastle Street, London

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David Goldblatt in conversation @ Barbican

From the series ‘Ex-Offenders’ – David Goldblatt

This Thursday evening, renowned South African photographer David Goldblatt is in conversation with artist duo Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin at the Barbican.

I was very moved by Goldblatt’s Ex-Offenders series at the Rencontres in Bamako last November, and some of you may have seen his work in London earlier last year at the V&A alongside the Figures and Fictions exhibition. I posted about the Broomberg/Chanarin show in Dublin this Spring here. A great combination, which should throw up some fascinating questions about photography in South Africa and beyond.

Event: Thursday 13th September, 7pm

Tickets: £8 online / £10 on the door, book here

Frobisher Auditorium 1, Barbican Centre
Silk Street, London