From Accra to Alserkal Avenue: a gallery takeover

In an initiative that is the first of its kind in the Middle East, Accra’s Gallery 1957 is taking over Lawrie Shabibi’s exhibition space in Alserkal Avenue for six weeks to include the Art Dubai period.

It’s a move that emulates current trends for younger galleries to develop their programmes internationally through the pooling of resources. “Sharing our space with another gallery for a period of time is experimental,” says Asmaa Al-Shabibi, co-director of Lawrie Shabibi. “It’s exciting for us and the local audience who will be presented with something fresh.

“Next year we aim to expand this into the whole Dubai gallery community inviting other international galleries into local spaces”.

Gallery 1957 was established in 2016 in Accra and is dedicated to contemporary art with a curatorial focus on West Africa. The takeover will be split into two three-week exhibitions; Serge Attukwei Clottey’s solo show (20 January to 9 February) will be followed by a joint exhibition with Gerald Chukwuma and Yaw Owusu (10 February to 3 March).

Marwan Zakhem, founder of Gallery 1957, has ambitious plans to make Accra a new contemporary art hub with an international reach. “My aim for the gallery has always been to be firmly established in Accra whilst working globally with a programme that expands outside of the gallery walls, focussed around artists who are currently bridging the gap between local and international practices.

“Our public programme has encompassed talks, residencies, performances, commissioning new site-specific installations, and supporting cultural initiatives in Ghana and beyond so we are delighted to have an off-site project in Dubai for the first time in advance of our participation at Art Dubai fair.”

Marwan Zakhem (right) – Lebanese by birth, British by upbringing and education, a long-term resident of Ghana where he runs a massive construction and development company – has been a notable collector for some time. He opened Gallery 1957 to specialise in cutting-edge contemporary African art in March 2016; named for the year that Ghana gained independence, Gallery 1957’s initial space was located within the Kempinski Hotel in Gold Coast City. In 2017 a second exhibition and project space was added in Accra’s new Galleria Mall.

Zakhem’s opening exhibition then was a solo show for Serge Attukwei Clottey; clearly he has considerable faith in the artist. In Dubai Clottey will be showing a new series of pastel drawings on paper, which explore a formalist approach, depicting disjointed figures and faces that are reminiscent of Cubist nudes – and of course the European movement drew heavily on traditional African tribal sculpture.

Clottey will also be showing his ‘Afrogallonism’ sculptures, wall-based pieces created from the yellow plastic oil containers used to carry water in many African countries, exploring ideas of consumption and necessity in the daily life of the modern African.

Alongside these sculptures and drawings, Clottey will present a video installation, The Displaced, which enacts the trade and migration story of his family with Clottey’s performance collective GoLokal.

Gerald Chukwuma explores migration as a constant process of transformation and reinvention. Considering the implications of globalisation on his local community, Chukwuma transforms everyday materials to render new stories of Nigeria’s socio-political landscape. Known for his intricately crafted wood-slate sculptures, Chukwuma’s multifaceted approach to burning, chiselling, and painting discarded objects – including found aluminium sheets and wooden planks – captures the nation’s richly layered history, whilst imbuing his works with both personal and political meaning.

Through a visually rich and socially engaged practice, Yaw Owusu questions the failures of Ghana’s ongoing infrastructural development. Owusu creates sculptural installations that repurpose pesewa coins, first introduced as an attempt to cure the country’s economic inflation in 2007 and now with almost no value. That enables the artist to use them as a primary material, shifting the value of otherwise worthless materials into things of beauty and asking urgent questions around economic and political independence in contemporary Ghana.

Above: Serge Attukwei Clottey, The Displaced. Below: Serge Attukwei Clottey, Too Far From Home

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