This was our woefully uninformed view until we finally tracked down the haunting abstract painting that hung above the fireplace in one of the last rooms of 2016’s 1:54 African Art fair. Its simple, monochrome and static style contrasted favourably with the noisy, primary-coloured attention seeking pieces that crowd pleasers enjoy.
We have described his art on social media as “an eclectic mix of the classical and the modern, portraiture and abstract. In a word, perfection.” We maintain this view.
Makamo is a Johannesburg based artist whose humble beginnings in the Limpopo province have been overcome by an unrelenting work ethic and a raw, abundant talent. He is currently represented by the prestigious Everard Read Gallery and his work has received the gilded nod of acknowledgement by the African art cognoscenti in London where his portraits are on display at the Gallery of African Art in Mayfair.
One of the most extraordinary aspects of this exhibition is that the Tate (the most prolific contemporary art museum in Europe) has taken so long to stage it. The rich and tortuous history of African-Americans during the civil rights movement is a period burgeoning with luminous examples of political leadership and creative giants who have been overshadowed and overlooked in social media and the art world’s fascination with millennial African-American pop culture.
Curator Mark Godfrey told the BBC: “We’ve done shows about American art for decades – it was a question of why hadn’t we done one on African-American art?…………..And there was every reason to do it as these are great artists making important work. We felt it was important to tell the story of this 20-year period when they were asking questions about the black aesthetic and what it means………..It’s a cohesive set of questions and a varied set of answers.”
So, who are the must see artists?
Instagram has always been a useful tool for artists to publicise their work. Increasingly it is also seen as an effective tool to discover and expose potential unauthorised use of an artist’s work.
Earlier this month, Nkuli Mlangeni a designer with an South African art and textile collective called The Ninevites posted two images alongside each other on Instagram to show the similarities between her work and the work which served as a backdrop to the showcase of South African designers and their artisanal goods at luxury French department store Le BHV Marais.
On 10 May this year, whilst most on the continent and in the diaspora woke up to a perfectly ordinary Thursday. African art lovers from Maputo to Mombasa, London to Los Angeles and beyond were choking on their cornflakes as they digested the images from the 57th Venice Biennale plastered over social media, print newspapers and the blogs.
In case you missed it, the genie left the bottle, married a oil billionaire’s daughter in Lagos and bought an El Anatsui.
In short, anyone with even the slightest interest in Africa’s creative arts would need to be blind, deaf and illiterate to escape the rising prices in the African contemporary art market.