1.54 Contemporary African Art Fair: How Nando’s supports emerging artists from the Southern African Art scene

A little known fact about Nando’s is that with over 9,000 pieces of art in the UK alone, they house one of the largest collections of African art in the world, each restaurant doubling up as a gallery and giving exposure to the amazing work of Southern African artists from its cultural roots.


As patrons of many young contemporary Southern African artists, Nando’s support different initiatives to cultivate the continent’s art sector and, having partnered with Spiers Arts Trust, Nando’s has been part of career development opportunities for emerging artists for many years.


Outside of the restaurants, and for the third year running, Nando’s partnered with the internationally acclaimed 1:54 Contemporary African Arts Fair 2017 in October, to showcase (and for the first time sell) works by four artists, supported through its partnership with the Spier Arts Trust – Patrick Bongoy, Henk Serfontein, Marlise Keith and Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi.


Taking over Somerset House for three days, the Fair is in its fifth year, showcasing 42 leading galleries specializing in comtemporary African art from 17 countries across Europe, Africa, the Middle East and North America.


Though the artists involved enjoy much recognition in their home countries – Henk, for example, is one of South Africa’s most recognised contemporary artists and Marlise Keith’s work has been displayed around the world – fair’s such as 1.54 are aimed at raising the profile and Nando’s prerogative was no different.


And with the artists drawing inspiration from the likes of exploitation of minerals in the Congo (Patrick Bongoy), to the issues of power and their political and social manifestation during Apartheid (Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi), there was an extremely interesting story to tell.


With a global platform and a culturally engaged audience, we secured an exclusive feature with the Culture Trip in which all four artists involved were posed a series of questions to ultimately answer the question ‘How accessible is African Art?’.


Providing a platform for the artists as well as amplifying Nando’s involvement through features, listings and one to one engagement at the fair itself, we were able to cut through in the wider arts market and build the profile of Nando’s in the world of art and, most importantly, the profile of the amazing Southern African artists involved.


And in answer to the question ‘How accessible is African art?’, Patrick Bongoy had this to say: “The growing number of high-quality art fairs, art prizes, art markets and exhibitions being produced in Southern Africa, as well as publications that expose new talents and projects, means that contemporary and diverse African art is more visible, accessible and shows its place in the global arena.”


And not only this, Fairs such as 1.54 and Nando’s work with Spier Arts Trust, allow artists to capitalise on a growing interest in African art that has been continuing apace, with a record number of African art pieces being sold at auctions around the world in 2014. Likewise, they allow African artists to strive for creative potential in their ability to make art full-time.


As Marlise Keith states in the interview: “Making art in South Africa on a full-time basis is very hard. Programmes such as Nando’s Art Society, the Chicken Run, and Creative Block all contribute to being able to make art full time. The fact that these programmes pay for the art immediately is a huge thing. Traditionally, galleries take works on consignment and only pay once the work is sold. Some galleries may take a while to pay, which results in feast or famine. As you can imagine, this plays havoc with one’s mental and fiscal health. There is absolutely nothing romantic about being a starving artist.”