OUT OF AFRICA Ayodeji Rotinwa around the 1-54 Contemporary Art Fair and Frieze London

Ayodeji Rotinwa, Artforum, October 28, 2021

At Frieze Masters, Lagos’s kó  Gallery showed Obiora Udechukwu, a modernist pioneer of the uli art movement in Nigeria whose legacy is seen today in works of artists like El Anatsui and Nnena Okore. Udechukwu’s ’70s work, broody and dark and inspired by the recent Nigerian Civil War, was particularly affecting. At the booth, there were many congratulations for kó’s founder, Kavita Chelleram, the implication being that an African gallery appearing at Frieze Masters was a feat. Statistically speaking, it was. “We want to go mainstream,” explained Chelleram when asked why the gallery elected to skip 1-54. “We want a larger public to know what’s going on. We want a much wider, critical, global audience.” It seems their gambit paid off: Four of Udechukwu’s works were acquired by Tate as part of the “museum’s strategy to transform the representation of modern art from African and the African diaspora,” according to an online statement from curator Osei Bonsu. The rest of the booth sold out.