In 2018 lawyer Maryam Lawal founded House of African Art (HAART), a platform dedicated to showcasing artists from Africa and the diaspora in London. The formation of such a project seems timely given the recent growth in market interest towards art from Africa. Running as a pop-up space, HAART provides support and recognition to established and early-career artists, while creating an exciting art environment through exhibitions, performances, talks and events. Gallery Girl met with Maryam to talk about the foundation of HAART, her plans for the future and HAART’s most recent Peckham exhibition.
“There are a number of reasons why I decided to set up House of African Art”, explains Maryam, “Artists from Africa and the diaspora are still largely underrepresented on an international level. One of the main aims of HAART is to provide a platform for the truly talented, innovative artists of African descent by giving them greater exposure, recognition and support for their work.” Maryam went on to acknowledge how the traditional gallery model is now outdated, which is in part the reason why HAART operates as a pop-up platform. “Drawing on the concept of a house, HAART also aims to create a more welcoming, inclusive environment”, she adds, “It is in contrast to what can at times be perceived as a pretense or elitism in the art world.”
Speaking about the African artists she is most excited about, Maryam cites Williams Chechet, Prince Gyasi and Lina Iris Viktor amongst her favourites. About Chechet, Maryam says: “Williams Chechet is a Nigerian artist whose work I’d been following for a while and who I now have the privilege to work with at HAART. His style centres around the fusion of traditional African imagery with Western pop art, creating work which transcends geographical boundaries and incorporates elements of history, tradition, Afro-futurism, Afrobeats and popular culture.” Of Prince Gyasi and Lina Iris Viktor, she applauds the pair for their striking imagery, and the way in which their work explores power, gender, authority, history and regality.
HAART’s most recent pop-up exhibition – which took place earlier this month at Copeland Gallery featured work by five visual artists – Derrick Ofosu Boateng, Euan Richards, Emmanuel Unaji, Moufouli Bello and Williams Chechet. Titled Seeing Sounds, it explored the relationship between sound and visual art, looking at the powerful influence that sound and music can have on creativity. “HAART is a combined arts platform”, stresses Maryam, “So in addition to creating an immersive experience at the art gallery during the daytimes, in the evenings during Seeing Sounds we had a series of talks, poetry and live musicians to compliment the overall theme.”
So, what about the future for HAART? “At the moment we currently put on pop-up exhibitions and events in different venues depending on the particular theme or number of artists for the show”, explains Maryam, “To see what we’re up to next and which artists we’ll be showcasing, you’ll have to stay tuned by subscribing to the HAART mailing list (www.houseofafricanart.com) or by following HAART on Instagram (@houseofafricanart), Facebook or Twitter!”
Seeing Sounds took place at Copeland Gallery, 133 Copeland Road, London SE15 3SN between 1 and 7 October 2019