by Shayna Watson
Every year, art collectors, admirers, and enthusiasts gather in New York during the first week of March for one of the world’s leading contemporary art fairs, Armory Show. An important event for the art world since 1913, this art fair has become increasingly interested in how technology and culture contribute to the art we view and how it is consumed and revered around the world.
In 2016, Armory Show chose the theme of “African Perspectives”, choosing to focus on a region of the world that is very rich in art and beauty, yet often overlooked by the western art world. Curators for the international art event wanted to showcase artists from the continent of Africa, as well as the African diaspora, in order to examine the very unique and innovative perspectives on art, global connections and identity emerging from these artists. Although the theme of this year’s fair was not centered around African artists, many of the breakout talents of the 24-year running show were of African descent. Below are five emerging artists who stole the attention and interest of art lovers from around the globe:
Omar Ba (Senegal)
Known for his mixed media paintings, Omar has been a student of the arts for most of his life. His work marries reality and surrealism in scenes of violence and fantasy from the present, folklore, and dynasties dating back to ancient Egypt. Ba has moved from his origins of abstract painting and now draws from his multicultural experiences to use figurative art as his storytelling medium.
Sory Sanlé (Burkina Faso)
Sanle’s goal as a photographer was never to become famous. First learning the art of photography from his work as an apprentice, Sory taught himself many of the technical aspects of printing and processing through taking pictures of the culture around him. Later in his career, he worked in a studio in his hometown of Nianiagara where it was said, “Rich people, poor people, religious people, artists, musicians, everyone could become a hero at his Volta studio.”
Lina Iris Viktor (Liberia)
Lina’s art can be distinguished from other artists’ from a mile away, with a very technique and time-consuming process seen through the detail of each painting. Her signature use of resin coated in 24-karat gold leaf on blue, black or white backgrounds has gained the attention of artists across visual and music mediums. The artist has explained that she uses these materials to reference the sacred way that gold was used by ancient cultures, and reaffirm the wealth and richness of African heritage.
Seydou Keïta (Mali)
Keita’s eloquent photography has captured a crucial time of transition for his hometown, Bamako – the capital of Mali. After receiving his first Kodak camera at the age of 14, Seydou spent the rest of his life as an artist teaching himself the techniques of shooting and printing by taking portraits of those in his community. Although Keita passed in 2001, his art is gaining popularity for its insightful storytelling of a country in political transition through imagery that seamlessly blended formality and intimacy.
Jadé Fadojutimi (Nigeria)
Jade is the youngest artist on this list, with her very first solo show happening earlier this year. Using juxtaposing vocabulary to define her artistic style, Jade explains that she aims to create “locations of familiar unfamiliarity, fears, and unknowns, my paintings delve into how we use the sense of place to establish our identity”. To go from her first solo show to a stage as big as Armory Show, this emerging artist has an awesomely bright future ahead.