Conversations surrounding race and a lack of representation in the art world have been evolving for the last few years and we are beginning to see a ripple effect. Multiple narratives are now available and curators and institutions are presenting a range of viewpoints fitting to the breadth of voices concerned. 

‘Bold, Black British’ is on view at Christie’s London, 1 – 21 October 2021, coinciding with Frieze Week and showcasing a vision of Black British art from the 1980s to the present day. Curator Aindrea Emelife is seeking to bring us a different, more holistic view of Black British art in a show that incorporates painting, sculpture, music and time-based media. 

 Anna Arca curated by Aindrea Emelife
Hew Locke, Hinterland. Photography: Anna Arca

Pieces by filmmaker and artist John Akomfrah, photography by James Barnor, painting by Ben Enwonwu, and sculptures by Zak Ové and Hew Locke will sit alongside work from research-led artist and writer Jade Montserrat, founder of the Blk Art Group Marlene Smith, African modernist Ibrahim El-Salahi, and multi-talented musician FKA Twigs. In taking this selection from the breadth of Black British arts, Emelife hopes to shake up and broaden our perceptions.

‘I like to see my curatorial practice as a Trojan horse,’ Emelife explains. ‘I want people to go into exhibitions with one idea, and have other ideas leap out at you, challenging and moving you at unexpected turns, asking you to look again at the history you thought you knew, or look closer at a history that has been seldom looked at.’

Amber Pinkerton, Girls Next Door, 2020, Digital C-Type, Copyright the Artist, courtesy Alice Black Bold Black British Aindrea Emelife
Amber Pinkerton, Girls Next Door, 2020, Digital C-Type, Copyright the Artist, courtesy Alice Black

Emelife had the idea for the exhibition after spending some time contemplating how Black art is represented in the public realm and decided that Christie’s would be an interesting location for an exhibition such as this. The idea then evolved into something beyond an exhibition of static works, expanding to include music and video intended to challenge ‘the common perception of Black art as being mostly painting and sculpture’, as Emelife says. 

‘I wanted to re-establish a Black British perspective. I had a conversation with a few places and then it started to develop into a bit more than an exhibition. The show started as a sort of general survey but then I wanted to include audiovisual work with fashion and music to paint a picture of Black British creativity.’

Curated by Aindrea Emelife John Akomfrah, The Monuments of Being, Series No. 5, 2021. Courtesy of Lisson Gallery
John Akomfrah, The Monuments of Being, Series No. 5, 2021. Courtesy of Lisson Gallery

For Emelife, this exhibition is about repositioning and rethinking artists who have made such an impact on our culture, and celebrating them in a manner fitting to their status. She intends to challenge and inform.

‘These artists don’t need a platform,’ she says. ‘They are and have been some of the most significant artists of our time. The exhibition is about celebrating that and recalibrating what a “platform” is. This is about boldly asserting that we have always been here and reclaiming space in art history that is long overdue.’ §

Ibrahim El-Salahi, Meditation Tree. Courtesy of Vigo Gallery, Aindrea Emelife
Ibrahim El-Salahi, Meditation Tree. Courtesy of Vigo Gallery