OCTOBER IN THE UK is black history month. It’s also a significant month when it comes to art this year. Throughout this month, and the rest of the fall season, there are many opportunities to experience the work of emerging and established figures. Black artists are headlining exhibitions at museums and galleries in London, and elsewhere in the UK. The selection includes British, American, African, and Caribbean artists.

For her eagerly awaited Hyundai Commission at Tate Modern, Kara Walker installed a monumental working fountain in Turbine Hall that invokes the transatlantic slave trade. John Akomfrah, Mark Bradford, Maren Hassinger, Joy Labinjo, Hew Locke, Lavar Munroe, Tschabalala Self, Stanley Whitney, and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye also have exhibitions on view.

Many of the presentations are firsts for artists, from Lina Iris Viktor whose exhibition at London’s Autograph is her first major solo show in the UK to Kudzanai-Violet Hwami who has her first solo institutional exhibition at Gasworks in London.

Much further afield, Otobong Nkanga is presenting her first UK museum show at Tate St. Ives. Two hours outside London, the 2019 Turner Prize exhibition is at Turner Contemporary in Margate on the Kent Coast at Rendezvous, where each of the four shortlisted artists, including Oscar Murillo and Helen Cammock, are staging solo shows. This season’s shows include the following 24 exhibitions:


JOHN AKOMFRAH, “Precarity,” 2017, (three channel HD colour video installation, 7.1 sound, 46 minutes 3 seconds). | © Smoking Dogs Films, Courtesy Lisson Gallery

“John Akomfrah: Ballasts of Memory” @ BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead | July 6-Oct. 27, 2019

“Ballasts of Memory” takes it title from a phrase artist and filmmaker John Akomfrah uses to articulate the significance of history. The exhibition brings together three works: “Precarity” (2017), The “Unfinished Conversation” (2012), and “Psyche” (2012). Making its European premiere, “Precarity” explores the tragic story of cornet player Charles ‘Buddy’ Bolden (1877-1931), a legendary figure in early New Orleans jazz. The film “expands upon a number of thematic concerns that reappear across his entire body of work: the legacies of slavery and forced human migration, the diasporic experience, colonialism, and climate change.” READ the exhibition guide


Installation view of “Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: A Mind for Moonlight,” Corvi-Mora Gallery, London | via Corvi-Mora

“Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: A Mind for Moonlight” @ Corvi-Mora Gallery, London | Sept. 6-Oct. 26, 2019

Although they are imagined, the subjects in Lynette Yiadom-Boakye‘s paintings have the powerful presence of dramatic, thoughtful, and complicated beings. For this exhibitions she has made a new group of portraits and scenes giving her figures some context in exterior and interior environments. Yiadom-Boakye was born in London where she lives and works. Her first major survey opens at Tate Britain in May 2020.

“Although they are not real I think of them as people known to me. They are imbued with a power of their own; they have a resonance—something emphatic and otherworldly.” — Lynette Yiadom Boakye on her subjects

LINA IRIS VIKTOR, “II. For Some Are Born to Endless Night. Dark Matter.,” 2015-9 | © Lina Iris Viktor, Courtesy the artist and Mariane Ibrahim Gallery

“Lina Iris Viktor: Some are Born to Endless Night – Dark Matter” @ Autograph, London | Sept. 13, 2019-Jan. 25, 2020

Autograph is hosting British-Liberian artist Lina Iris Viktor‘s first major solo show in the UK. Viktor, who splits her time between London and New York, develops her photography, painting and sculptural installations within a limited palette, an immersive universe of deep black, royal blue, rich red, and 24-karat gold. Victor’s works “are infused with cultural histories of the global African diaspora and preoccupied with multifaceted notions of blackness.” Curated by Renée Mussai, the exhibition features more than 60 works, many shown publicly for the first time, including works commissioned by Autograph.


KUDZANAI-VIOLET HWAMI, “Medicine man,” 2019 (oil on canvas, 120 x 120 cm). | Commissioned by Gasworks. Courtesy of the artist and Tyburn Gallery. Photo by Andy Keate

Kudzanai-Violet Hwami: (15,952km) via Trans-Sahara Hwy N1 @ Gasworks, London | Sept. 19-Dec. 15, 2019

This is the first institutional solo exhibition by Kudzanai-Violet Hwami. She made a new body of work for the show, paintings that explore family roots and geographical dislocation. The title of the exhibition is derived from the artist’s calculation of the distance from her birthplace in Gutu, Zimbabwe, to Cape Town, South Africa, where she was raised, and Gasworks in London. The works draw on photos from old family albums and new images she took during a recent residency near Harare. “The question is are they my family and friends or are they subjects I’m witnessing? I like to play around with assumptions,” Hwami has said. She is among four artists representing Zimbabwe at this year’s 58th Venice Biennale.


OTOBONG NKANGA, Detail of “The Weight of Scars,” 2015 (viscose, wool, mohair, and cotton, 99 × 241 inches / 251.5 × 612.1 cm). | Courtesy of the artist and Lumen Travo, Amsterdam, In Situ / Fabienne Leclerc, Paris and Mendes Wood DM, São Paulo, Brussels, New York. © Photo by MHKA

“Otobong Nkanga: From Where I Stand” @ Tate St. Ives, Cornwall | Sept. 21, 2019-Jan. 5, 2020

For her first UK museum show, Otobong Nkanga is presenting new and existing work that “explores the politics of land and its relationship to the body, and histories of land acquisition and ownership.” Nkanga works in a range of mediums, including painting, photography, installation, video and performance. Born in Nigeria, she lives and works in Antwerp. Last week, the Henie Onstad Kunstsenter Museum in Høvikodden, Norway, named Nkanga the inaugural winner of the Lise Wilhelmsen Art Award. The biannual prize for mid-career artists comes with $100,000.


Photographer Aïda Muluneh discusses the images she made for her “Water Life” exhibition at Somerset House. | Video by WaterAid

Aïda Muluneh: Water Life @ Somerset House, London | Sept. 24-Oct. 20, 2019

Ethiopian photographer Aïda Muluneh‘s striking Afrofuturist images draw on traditional body-painting culture and explore representation, gender, and social justice issues. Muluneh is showing a series of 12 new large-scale photographs commissioned by WaterAid. She shot the images in the Danakil Desert in northeast Ethiopia, which is considered the hottest place on Earth. Addis Ababa-based Muluneh is a graduate of Howard University and founder of Addis Foto Fest.


HEW LOCKE, “Where Lies the Land? 2,” 2019 (acrylic on wood with metal, plastic, textile, enamel, and found objects, 192 x 195 x 57 cm / 75 5/8 x 76 3/4 x 22 1/2 inches). | via Hales London

“Hew Locke: Where Lies the Land? @ Hales London | Sept. 25-Nov. 9, 2019

Histories and geographies and the foundations they form for contemporary culture and politics are at the root of Hew Locke‘s practice. His latest exhibition features new works, including a variety of sculptures and an installation of suspended boats that furthers his ongoing investigation of ships. The title of the show references an 1852 poem by Arthur Hugh Clough. Born in Edinburgh, UK, Locke lives and works in London.

In Hew Locke’s exhibition, the “flotilla appears as votive, at once representing both safe and dangerous passage. Individual boats are embellished with objects and cargo that can be seen as allegories of voyages made by explorers, colonialists, migrants, traders, refugees or pirates. Locke’s elegant fleet speaks of both hope and fear, evoking paradoxical notions of displacement and home.”

ISAAC JULIEN, “Pas de Deux with Roses (Looking for Langston Vintage Series),” 1989/2016 (Ilford classic silver gelatin fine art paper, mounted on aluminum and framed, Framed size 58.1 x 74.5 cm / 22 7/8 x 29 3/8 inches). | © Isaac Julien, Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro, London

“Isaac Julien: Looking for Langston” @ Tate Britain, London | May 11-Nov. 17, 2019

This presentation marks the Tate’s acquisition of “Looking for Langston” (1989/2016). Inspired by the symbolism of Langston Hughes (1901–1967), Isaac Julien‘s legendary film explores black gay desire by weaving together various art forms. The British artist looked to American culture, the Harlem Renaissance, in particular, in conceiving the work. Blending real and imagined scenes, the film features documentary radio broadcast and film footage; poetry by Hughes, Richard Bruce Nugent (1906–1987), James Baldwin (1924–1987) and Essex Hemphill (1957–1995); and 1980s club music. Although the film is not set in any particular time or place, it was made at the height of the AIDS crisis.

On May 1, the shortlist for the Turner Prize 2019 was announced. The four artists selected—Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Helen Cammock, Oscar Murillo and Tai Shani—are presenting exhibitions at Turner Contemporary and the winner will be announced Dec. 3.

Installation view of HELEN CAMMOCK, “The Long Note,” 2018 (video still), Turner Prize 2019, Turner Contemporary, Margate. | Courtesy the artist. Photo by David Levene

Helen Cammock, Turner Prize 2019 @ Turner Contemporary, Margate, Kent | Sept. 28, 2019-Jan. 12, 2020

Helen Cammock’s research-based practice spans film, photography, print, text, and performance. For her Turner Prize exhibition, Cammock is presenting “The Long Note,” a film about civil rights in Derry, Northern Ireland, and the overlooked role of woman in the movement that began in 1968. The show also includes two performances; a reading space; and “Shouting in Whispers,” a series of text-based screen prints that integrate the artist’s words with quotes from the likes of Trinidad-born political activist Claudia Jones and lyrics by Public Enemy. Born in Staffordshire, UK, Cammock lives and works in London.


Installation view of OSCAR MURILLO, Turner Prize 2019, Turner Contemporary. | Courtesy Turner Contemporary and the artist. Photo by David Levene

Oscar Murillo, Turner Prize 2019 @ Turner Contemporary, Margate, Kent | Sept. 28, 2019-Jan. 12, 2020

Based in London and several other locations, Oscar Murillo works across a variety of mediums from painting and sculptural installation to performance and video. Murillo’s Turner Prize 2019 installation reflects the current political and cultural moment in the UK. He is showing a group of papier mâché figures that represents a global and mobilized workforce that has arrived at the exhibition by train. The life-size figures are shown with two large-scale series, unstretched paintings that reflect on society’s “blindness” and “darkness.”

Murillo has a few other European exhibitions this fall. “Oscar Murillo: trades hall & institute” is on view at Carlos/Ishikawa gallery in London (Sept. 21-Oct. 19, 2019). Also in the UK, his “Frequencies” project is being presented in collaboration with a commission by Ruth Ewan at Yorkshire Sculpture Park in West Bretton, Wakefield (July 13-Nov. 3, 2019). And the exhibition “Oscar Murillo: Horizontal Darkness in Search of Solidarity” is at the Kunstverein in Hamberg, Germany (Nov. 9, 2019-Jan. 26, 2020).


LAVAR MUNROE, “A Stranger,” 2019 (acrylic on unprimed canvas, 84 x 96 inches / 213.4 x 243.8 cm). | © Lavar Munroe, via Jack Bell Gallery

“Lavar Munroe: Strangers in the Night” @ Jack Bell Gallery, London | Oct. 1-18, 2019

Lavar Munroe is presenting new paintings and sculptures based on fictional characters he calls The Redbones. A generation of children from poor communities, the group is selected by society’s wealthy class to serve on the frontlines of “the fight for freedom and justice for all.” In describing his latest body of work, Munroe states that it explores “various notions and understandings surrounding rites of passage, institutional credence and service-based insurgencies. It points to child soldiers, juvenile detention units, prisons, fraternities and school yards among many other organized social groupings.” Born in Nassau, Bahamas, Munro splits his time between Germantown, Md., and Nassau.


Installation view of “Stanley Whitney: Afternoon Paintings,” Lisson Gallery, London. | via Lisson Gallery

“Stanley Whitney: Afternoon Paintings” @ Lisson Gallery, London | Oct. 2-Nov. 2, 2019

New York-based Stanley Whitney is known ofr his signature grid style of abstraction, a standard framework within which his use of color is improvisational and spontaneous. This exhibition features a selection of small-scale “Afternoon Paintings.” A new publication documents the show. Lynne Tillman, a novelist, short story writer and cultural critic who is in-residence at the University of Albany contributed an essay to the publication.


Detail of MAREN HASSINGER, “Fight the Power” 2017 (ink on newsprint, 20 x 175 x 15 inches overall, 20 x 35 x 15 inches each, 5 units). | via Tiwani Contemporary

“Maren Hassinger: Passing Through” @ Tiwani Contemporary, London | Oct. 2-Nov. 15, 2019

Maren Hassinger’s artistic roots date back to the 1970s and 80s African American avant garde in Los Angeles. She has a foundation in dance and produces abstract and minimalist sculpture and installations and also works in video and performance. She explores nature and movement and also addresses cultural and social issues including race, gender, identity, and equality, as well as politics, consumerism, industrialization, and public policy. For her first solo exhibition outside the United States, New York-based Hassinger is presenting new and existing works—sculpture, newspaper-based works and drawings.


Installation view of “Rock My Soul,” Victoria Miro Gallery. Shown, From left, works by Njideka Akunyili Crosby and Wangechi Mutu. | via Victoria Miro

“Rock My Soul” @ Victoria Miro Gallery, Wharf Road, London | Oct. 2-Nov. 2, 2019

Curated by Isaac Julien, this exhibition presents new and historic works by an exceptional group of black women artists: Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Sonia Boyce, Karon Davis, Zanele Muholi, Wangechi Mutu, Frida Orupabo, Howardena Pindell, Betye Saar, Khadija Saye, Tschabalala Self, and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. The title of the show is inspired by a 2002 book by bell hooks in which she “investigates the role of black self-esteem in empowering a body politic both culturally and politically.”


From left, MARY SIBANDE, “Living Memory,” 2011 (archival digital print, 126 x 87 cm) and “I Put A Spell On Me,” 2009 (archival digital print, 90 x 60 cm). | via Somerset House

“Mary Sibande: I Came Apart at the Seams” @ Somerset House, London | Oct. 3, 2019-Jan 5, 2020

For her first solo exhibition in the UK, South African artist Mary Sibande is showing photography and sculpture. The show follows the journey of Sophie, the artist’s life-size avatar who takes on a variety of roles and narratives realized in sculptural form. Sibande explores the experiences of generations of women in her family who worked as domestic laborers and challenges stereotypes of black women in post-apartheid South Africa. The exhibition of new and existing works is presented in partnership with the 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair.


KARA WALKER, Installation view of “Fons Americanus,” 2019, Tate Modern. | Photo © Tate​ by Ben Fisher

“Kara Walker: Fons Americanus,” Hyundai Commission @ Turbine Hall, Tate Modern, London | Oct. 2, 2019-April 5, 2020

Known for her cut-paper silhouettes exploring the history of slavery and generations of American racism, sexuality, and violence, New York-based Kara Walker has expanded her practice over the years, considering her standard themes in new mediums. Her latest work created for Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall is a functioning water fountain that stands nearly 43-feet high. “Fons Americanus” challenges the legacy of the British Empire. Reimagining the Victoria Memorial at Buckingham Palace, the work is a monumental exploration of the transatlantic slave trade. Walker is the first black artist and first American artist selected to participate in the museum’s celebrated Hyundai commission.

Kara Walker’s fountain “explores the interconnected histories of Africa, America and Europe. She uses water as a key theme, referring to the transatlantic slave trade and the ambitions, fates and tragedies of people from these three continents. Fantasy, fact and fiction meet at an epic scale.”

MARK BRADFORD, “Gatekeeper,” 2019 (mixed media on canvas, 353.1 x 571.5 cm / 139 x 225 inches). | © Mark Bradford, Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. | Photo by Joshua White

“Mark Bradford: Cerberus” @ Hauser & Wirth, London | Oct. 2-Dec. 21, 2019

For his first exhibition at Hauser & Wirth’s London space, Mark Bradford is presenting new paintings and a film installation based on “Dancing in the Street,” the 1964 song performed by Martha and the Vandellas. Los Angeles, where Bradford lives and works, is at the root of the show. The paintings are based on a map from a government report commissioned in the wake of the 1965 Watts Riots that detailed locations of burned out buildings, looted stores, and deaths. With the map as his base, Bradford builds up layers of color, texture, and nuance, on top of tragedy represented as data. Taking its title from Greek mythology, the exhibition is “dedicated to places difficult and in-between, where conflicts arise, but also where the hope of resolution is to be found.”


“I have always been interested in pulling the world that exists beyond the studio walls, and outside the art world, into the work.” — Mark Bradford

CHRISTINA QUARLES, “Yew Brought it Up,” 2018 (acrylic on canvas 139.7 x 218.4 cm). | Courtesy the artist and Pilar Corrias Gallery, London. Photo by Damian Griffiths

Christina Quarles @ The Hepworth Wakefield, West Yorkshire, UK | Oct. 19, 2019-Jan. 19, 2020


For her first solo exhibition in a European museum, Los Angeles-based Christina Quarles is presenting recent paintings and drawings and several new works made specifically for this show. Rich with color, her depictions bridge abstraction and figuration. Her contorted and entangled bodies reflect her own experience wrestling with how she is perceived, misread, and misrepresented as a mixed-race, queer cis woman.


Installation view of “Tschabalala Self, Thigh High,” Pilar Corrias, London (Oct. 2-Nov. 9, 2019. | Courtesy the artist and Pilar Corrias, London. Photo by Damian Griffiths

“Tschabalala Self: Thigh High” @ Pilar Corrias Gallery, London | Oct. 2-Nov. 9, 2019

A 2018-19 Studio Museum in Harlem artist in residence, Tschabalala Self explores “the cultural expectations placed upon the gendered and racialized body. Through her use of form and function, Self parses the iconographic significance of the Black female body in contemporary culture.” For this exhibition, she is presenting new paintings, sculpture, and an animation. The works emphasize the shoes and accessories worn by her subjects. Self splits her time between New York and New Haven, Conn.


JOY LABINJO, “Bride to be,” 2019. | Courtesy the artist and Tiwani Contemporary

“Joy Labinjo: Our histories cling to us” @ Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead | Oct. 19, 2019-Feb. 23, 2020

British-born Joy Labinjo explores her Nigerian heritage in large-scale paintings that center her family and friends. Inspired by images from family photo albums, her richly colored compositions marry her subjects with domestic interiors, creating everyday scenes that explore identity, race, representation, and culture. On Jan. 15, 2020, Labinjo will be in conversation about her work with Elena Crippa, Tate’s curator of modern and contemporary British art.


KARA WALKER, “Testimony: Narrative of a Negress Burdened by Good Intentions,” 2004 (DVD video, boxed with cut paper silhouettes, beta master; 8 minutes, 49 seconds). | © Kara Walker, via Spruth Magers

“From Black to White to Living Color: The Collected Motion Pictures and Accompanying Documents of Kara E. Walker, Artist” @ Spruth Magers, London | Oct. 4-Dec. 21, 2019

Known for her cut-paper silhouettes confronting America’s sordid racial history, Kara Walker has for many years been expanding her interpretations through a series of uniquely styled films. The exhibition features eight works, including “Testimony: Narrative of a Negress Burdened by Good Intentions” (2004) and “Fall Frum Grace, Miss Pipi’s Blue Tale” (2011), along with related ephemera such as sketches, shot lists, handwritten notes and puppets that shed light on the New York-based artist’s process. Curated by Hilton Als (who wrote about Walker’s films for Frieze magazine), the exhibition runs concurrently with her Hyundai Commission at Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall.


JEAN DAVID NKOT, “HPP//.WWW.ASTRAL TRAVEL.NET,” 2019 (acrylic & Posca on canvas, 66 7/8 x 110 1/4 inches / 170 x 280 cm). | © Jean David Nkot, via Jack Bell Gallery

Jean David Nkot @ Jack Bell Gallery, London | Nov. 1-15, 2019

Jean David Nkot is presenting new large-scale paintings in this exhibition. The Cameroon-born artist describes his subjects as young workers attempting trans-Africa migration. He embeds their portraits with cartographic information. “While many will perish in deserts and seas,” Nkot writes in a statement about his practice, “the fate of their journeys remains unknown to those they have left behind. These paintings function foremost as remembrance, to identify where there is now no trace, but also as a warning to other migrants.”


Steve McQueen’s Year 3 class at Little Ealings Primary School, 1977. | via Tate

“Steve McQueen: Year 3” @ Tate Britain, London | Nov. 12, 2019-May 3, 2020

British artist and filmmaker Steve McQueen is photographing all of London’s “Year 3” students, which is equivalent to second grade in the United States when children are 7 and 8-years-old. “There’s an urgency to reflect on who we are and our future… to have a visual reflection on the people who make this city work,” McQueen has stated. “I think it’s important and in some ways urgent.” The undertaking will document about 115,000 students at 2,410 schools in traditional class photographs. Images from the project will be presented in a couple of contexts. At Tate Britain, the group photographs will be shown together in an expansive installation that will coincide with a survey of McQueen’s work opening at the museum in February 2020. The school photos will also be displayed around the city in fall 2019.


Still from film “Dance of Malaga” (2019). | © Theaster Gates and courtesy of artist. Photo by Chris Strong

“Theaster Gates: Amalgam” @ Tate Liverpool | Dec. 13, 2019-May 3, 2020

For his latest exhibition, Chicago-based Theaster Gates mines the little-known history of Malaga, a small island off the coast of Maine. In 1912, state’s governor ordered the forced removal of the island’s inhabitants, an ethnically mixed-race community. The exhibition features sculpture, installation, and a new film, “Dance of Malaga” (2019). The film features choreography by Kyle Abraham and is scored by Gates’s musical collective, The Black Monks. Gates has exhibited around the world. When this exhibition debuted in February at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, it was the artist’s first solo museum show in France. Opening in Liverpool, it is Gates’s first major UK exhibition. CT


UPDATE (10/08/19): Headline was updated to be more reflective of content


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