AKAA 2017 | More ambitious than ever
If art fairs have to stay relevant to attract a significant audience of buyers, then Paris’ Also Known As Africa, directed by the Franco-American Victoria Mann — born to a family of collectors — is one of the most relevant fairs out there. Its aim? To make sure that the recent renewed interest in contemporary art from Africa does not fade away and that this booming market continue to grow.
The young, mid-sized fair, this year in its second edition, will return to its traditional setting of the Carreau du Temple in Paris’ Marais district from November 10 through 12. Coinciding with the main event of the week — Paris Photo — AKAA will bring together 38 galleries from 19 countries, for a total of 149 exhibited artists.
For a fair in its second edition AKAA can boast an impressive list of sponsors — including Orange Renault and Axa Art — a prestigious selection committee (with galerist Dominique Fiat, October gallery artist director Elisabeth Lalouschek and curators Simon Njami and Azu Nwagbogu) as well as an impressive selection of galleries from the African continent, hailing from countries as diverse as Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa, Angola, Zimbabwe, Morocco, Tunisia, Senegal, Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Uganda. Unlike many of the capital’s art fairs, AKAA is by no means Paris-centric: only five out of the 38 participating galleries hail from the host city.
Despite representing a good portion of the African art market, in many ways AKAA refuses the formula “contemporary African art” — whilst giving priority to diversity, the fair does not aim to represent everything. If anything, AKAA’s focus is on the quality of its proposition, which this year, goes definitely through the roof.
David Uzochuwku, Wildfiret, 2015. Courtesy Galerie Number 8, Brussels.
Among the 22 newcomers attending the fair this year are: ArtLabAfrica, (Nairobi) Barnard Gallery, (Cape Town) Galerie Number 8, (Brussels) Tyburn gallery, (London) Vision Quest (Genoa) Voice Gallery (Marrakech) and Maelle Gallery. (Paris)
In addition, the fair will also celebrate the life and work of the late artist Ousmane Sow, who passed away in December last year, and will give carte blanche to artist Lady Skollie, who will operate in the area of the newly launched section AKAA Underground on the -1 level of Carreau du Temple. Lastly, Cameroonian artist Bili Bidjocka will participate with a monumental installation in the Carreau du Temple.
A program of talks, performances and screenings revolving around the theme of “healing” will complete the fair’s offer.
For Mann and the organizers of AKAA, the driving force behind the fair is a desire to provide a platform to both sustain a growing market and educate the audience about African art. For this reason, AKAA will be the only fair to provide an audio guide conceived by director of cultural programming Salimata Diop, who will talk visitors through the fair. Available until the next edition of AKAA, this exclusive project aims to give the fair a longer lifespan.
Addy Campbell, Agape V, 2016. Courtesy the artist and Galerie Number 8 Brussels.