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25 Amazing Pieces From 1-54's Virtual Contemporary African Art Fair


The international contemporary art fair 1-54 has teamed up with the online art database platform Artsy to host its first virtual art fair. The digital art fair marks a first for 1-54, who had to postpone its annual New York 2020 showing due to COVID-19 closures. The virtual fair features hundreds of artworks from more than 80 artists from Africa and the diaspora presented by 25 galleries based in Austria, China, France, Italy, Martinique, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Uganda, the United Kingdom, and the United States in separate booths on Arty’s website

The art fair is available to view online now until May 31st. On the website, visitors have the option to explore, inquire, and purchase from the 25 international galleries. They can also save and share their favorite pieces while building their own personal collection that can be viewed from computers or the Artsy App. Through the app or the website, viewers are able to visualize the artworks at home through augmented reality, by virtually placing them on their walls. This can be done by simply clicking on the ‘view in room’ feature. 

This event was created with the purpose of supporting art galleries, especially those based in Africa, as they survive through the current economic crisis. They depend greatly on the international market and with the digital community, they hope to bring visibility and access to the galleries and the artists. The selected artworks represent various mediums including drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, collage, weaving, and mixed media. 

1-54 is the first leading international art fair dedicated to expanding the contemporary art canon by representing international artists and galleries from the fifty-four countries which constitute the African continent and the wider diaspora. By presenting artworks at their annual art fairs in London, New York, and most recently Marrakech, they hope to improve the representation of contemporary African art in exhibitions around the globe. 

With a growing database of one million works of art, architecture, and design by 100,000 artists, Artsy is the largest online contemporary art database. The artwork featured on the website include works from historical, modern, and contemporary artists. The online platform collects and discovers art while expanding the art market to support more artists and art in the world. 

Below we compiled a list of our favorite 25 artworks from 1-54's inaugural virtual art fair. Visit to get a more in-depth look at the pieces and explore the wide range of artwork on their website.



1-54 x Artsy Contemporary Art Fair 2020

Po. Box - 2470 a life of illusions, 2019

Cameroonian artist, Jean David Nkot utilizes painting to depict the stories of African subjects who are all connected by a common quest for opportunity. The narrative he depicts in his paintings is the migration of working-class people who travel across deserts and seas in search of a better life. In his comprehensive series, he paints portraits men and women in the foreground and layers of detailed cartographic information in the background. Nkot's work serves as a powerful mark of remembrance as well as a literal mapping-out of human displacement. 



1-54 x Artsy Contemporary Art Fair

Divination Object #5, 2019

Anthony O. Akinbola is a Nigerian-American interdisciplinary artist who explores human experiences and history through an African-American lens. Oftentimes, he blends both his African and American backgrounds in his work - introducing a discourse that explores the paralleled themes in African and American culture.


1-54 x Artsy Contemporary Art Fair 2020

And still I rise, 2019

Martinique-based photographer, Nicholas Derné tells the stories of underrepresented individuals through a black and white series titled, Parades. In this series, the artist photographs subjects at a Caribbean carnival who each portray an important message in an expressive manner. 


1-54 x Artsy Contemporary Art Fair 2020

A coming of age story, 2020

Ken Nwadiogbu is a Nigerian-born multidisciplinary artist. His conceptual artworks are a variation of charcoal, collage, and acrylic on canvas. Through the juxtaposition of these methods, he intentionally creates a discourse that challenges the representation of the Black body.

1-54 x Artsy Contemporary Art Fair 2020

Mama Soap II , 2020

Abidjan-born artist, Henri Abraham Univers is influenced greatly by his multicultural upbringing. The artist is currently based in London and finds much of his inspiration from the many realities that he has experienced. 


1-54 x Artsy Contemporary Art Fair 2020

Chakacha, 2019

Evans Mbugua was born in Nairobi, Kenya, and currently resides in Paris, France. The multidisciplinary artist, with formal training in graphic design, portrays the stories of his own life, friends, and strangers through vibrant and artistic portraiture, combining both color and print detail.

1-54 x Artsy Contemporary Art Fair 2020

Thinking of my Ancestors , 2020

Marion Boehm originates from Duisburg, Germany, and is based between Germany and Johannesburg, South Africa. The artists' primary mode is collaging, in which she depicts the stories of the South African female community. 


Wilde Gallery

1-54 x Artsy Contemporary Art Fair 2020

Civilisation, 2013

Multidisciplinary Moroccan artist, Mounir Fatmi, constructs visual environments that examine human vulnerability. In his work, he poses questions that examine politics, religion, and justice as it pertains to past and current events. 


Sulger Buel Gallery 

1-54 x Artsy Contemporary Art Fair 2020

If Nigeria will not wear her cloth, She deserves to go naked, 2019

Peju Alatise is a Nigerian interdisciplinary artist. Her work challenges the African status quo and global affairs. Alatise experiments with materials and techniques as a medium to analyze various socio-political issues.


1-54 x Artsy Contemporary Art Fair 2020

Péché originel, 2019

Congolese-based artist, Steve Bandoma uses his art form as artistic criticism of religious history, classicism, and myth. Through his mixed-media pieces, he addresses universal themes while drawing connections between the past and the present. 

1-54 x Artsy Contemporary Art Fair 2020

La Reine, 2019

Soly Cissé is a painter, sculptor, and draughtsman from Dakar, Senegal. The artist predominately paints scenes that feature configured beings that emerge from darkness and chaos. The imagery he paints references to mystical symbols such as animal masks or deities in some pre-colonial African cultures. 

Danziger Gallery 

1-54 x Artsy Contemporary Art Fair 2020

Untitled Portrait, ca. 1950

Malian photographer Seydou Keïta (1921-2001), lived in Bamako, Mali from 1921 to 200, where he opened a photography studio in 1948 specializing in portraiture. After photographing a large population of Bamako, his photographs gained popularity in West Africa in the late 1900's for their quality and aesthetics.  


1-54 x Artsy Contemporary Art Fair 2020


Untitled, 2019

Ghanaian-born artist, Raphael “Afutumix” Adjetey Adjei Mayne, examines political, social, and emotional themes in his work, from an African lens. With the use of fabrics in combination with drawings, he explores rural and urban areas in Africa while integrating the philosophical concepts of Adinkra and the artist’s childhood memories. 


1-54 x Artsy Contemporary Art Fair 2020

Untitled, 2020

Senegalese artist, Ousmane Niang mainly draws from the pointillism technique. His paintings symbolize human-animal forms and expressions, revealing the endurance and fragility in social beings in the face of mystical powers. His symbolic paintings depict solutions to specific social issues. 


1-54 x Artsy Contemporary Art Fair 2020

Urban mines, Kumasi, 2015-2017

Photographic journalist, Nyaba Ouedraogo, originally from Burkina Baso mainly documents the copper industry in Ghana with a focus on adolescent and adult minors. In his series, The Hell of Copper, the photographer grapples with the realities of electrical waste received from Europe and the United States.


1-54 x Artsy Contemporary Art Fair 2020

Untitled, 2019

Based in the Ivory Coast, artist Yeanzi addresses the question of identity through an African mythological lens. His paintings often depict subjects with multiple identities and examine them as individuals as well as a collective entity. To paint his subjects form, he uses melted plastic of various colors. 


1-54 x Artsy Contemporary Art Fair 2020

Protection II, 2020

Ghana-based visual artist and photographer, Prince Gyasi creates bold and electric photographs of people in his hometown, Accra. His images are hyper colorful representations of marginalized people, showcasing them in a more positive light. Using an iPhone, Gyasi photographs powerful silhouettes against bright-hued backgrounds. 


1-54 x Artsy Contemporary Art Fair 2020

The Kiss, 2020

Nigerian-born mixed-media artist, Kelechi Charles Nwaneri focuses on social issues, mental health, and psychology while utilizing drawing, acrylic paints, collages, watercolors, and oil paints as mediums in his artwork. He creates surrealist paintings using mystical, metaphysical, and allegorical imagery to convey messages within detailed scenes. 


1-54 x Artsy Contemporary Art Fair 2020

Johannesburg Nightscapes, 2014-ongoing

French photographer, Elsa Bleda captures the architecture of Johannesburg against a dimly lit night backdrop. In her ongoing series, Public House of Art, Bleda portrays the Chinese community who reside in Johannesburg's neon residential buildings. 


1-54 x Artsy Contemporary Art Fair 2020

La femme au bébé à Jamestown, Ghana, 2009

Cairo-based photographer, Denis Dailleux's work is both calm and demanding. His main subjects are the individuals who reside in Cairo, adding dimension to the story of present-day Cairo, Egypt. 


1-54 x Artsy Contemporary Art Fair 2020

Tala ba tala, 2019

Inspired by his native environment in Congo, Ngimbi (Luve) Bakambana pulls from the SAPE1 culture by painting colorful portraits. In contrary to war and hardship, Bakambana touches upon joy and hope as embodied in the “Kitendi Religion”, a concept that links the principles of religion to the social uses of fabrics and fashion.


1-54 x Artsy Contemporary Art Fair 2020

Can we all just get along?, 2020

Kentucky-born artist, Noel Anderson utilizes print-media and arts-based-research to explore philosophical inquiry methodologies. He primarily focuses on socially constructed imagery in regards to black masculinity and celebrity. Loose threads and the natural warp of the material represent a glitch that invites viewers to revisit their memories and notions.


1-54 x Artsy Contemporary Art Fair 2020

No Borders, 2019

Cuban artist, Armando Mariño currently resides in New York. He produces richly expressive paintings, sculptures, and installations that merges abstraction and representation, the everyday and the surreal, and nature and culture.


1-54 x Artsy Contemporary Art Fair 2020

Series of Gated Communities - Looks Like Bananas - pentaptych 5/5, 2020

Ibrahim El Dessouki lives and works in Cairo as a painter of a highly condensed style in portraiture as well as in still life painting and landscape. His unique composition of color, meticulous treatment of shades, and refined textures paint dream-like imagery.


1-54 x Artsy Contemporary Art Fair 2020

Alto Amor, 2019

Parisian-born artist, Alexis Peskine, explores the themes of the 'Black Experience' in his work. By nailing portraits of Black subjects representing enslaved people from the TransAtlantic Slave Trade into wooden planks and using various sizes of nails to creates brushstrokes on the canvas, he depicts the pain and transcendence of captive African people. 

Written by Gelina Dames