Collector Marwan Zakhem Wants to Make Accra a New Contemporary Art Hub

After much hype abroad, a homegrown scene is here to stay.

Serge Attukwei Clottey Awaiting (Europe in the Eyes of Africa Series) (2013)
Photo: ©the artist, courtesy Gallery 1957

Ghana is more than just the birthplace of El-Anatsui. Accra-based collector and construction business owner Marwan Zakhem is doing what he can to change international, and local, perceptions of his country by opening Gallery 1957, which will specialize in cutting-edge contemporary African art.

“I wanted to create a commercial platform for artists based here to provide increased opportunities so they don’t feel they have to move abroad to pursue their careers,” Zakhem wrote in an email to artnet News. “I founded the gallery to support, complement, and highlight the art scene that has already started to grow here.”

The gallery will open its doors on March 6—Ghana’s Independence Day—with an inaugural exhibition of work by the emerging artist Serge Attukwei Clottey. Founder of the GoLokal performance collective, Clottey’s recent work centers around the idea of Afrogallonism, a comment on the customary repurposing of yellow plastic oil containers used to carry water in many African countries.

Serge Attukwei Clottey <i>The Displaced</i> (2015) performance/installation <br> Photo: via

Serge Attukwei Clottey The Displaced (2015), performance/installation.
Photo: via

“We aim to further understanding of the country’s art and artists, foster relationships between Ghanaian artists and international art institutions and promote discourse and new narratives,” writes Zakhem.

Zakhem, who has lived in West Africa for 15 years, already houses part of his collection of contemporary African art within the Kempinski Hotel Gold Coast City, which will also house Gallery 1957.

1957 is the year Ghana won back its independence from the British, so it is clear from the name alone that the gallery has big plans for its future. It joins Accra dot ALT, Foundation for Contemporary Art-Ghana (FCA), the Nubuke Foundation, and Nana Oforiatta Ayim’s cultural initiative ANO, in what is becoming a formidable contemporary art scene in the country’s capital.

“Ghana has one of the Africa’s fastest-growing economies and continues to experience high growth rates,” writes Zakhem. “The arts scene here has the potential to develop with the country and be a hub for the rest of West Africa.”

1:54 director Touria El Glaoui with an installation by Conrad Botes at Bennett Contemporary

1:54 Director Touria El Glaoui with an installation by Conrad Botes at Bennett Contemporary.
Photo: Ben Davis.

The profile of African art has risen in recent years in both the antiquities and contemporary markets with a new focus on up-and-coming artists as well as the general health of the African art market.

“Ghana contains a wealth of talent and we are very exited to now have a commercial force supporting the artists locally in Accra,” Touria El Glaoui, founding director of 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair, told artnet News.

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