Aindrea Emelife partners with Christie’s to present “Bold, Black & British” artists this Black history month

The curator hopes to showcase the significance of Black Britons in shaping the country’s artistic and creative movements.

4 October 2021
Reading Time
3 minute read


New-age trailblazers Olivia Sterling, Julian Knox and FKA Twigs stand alongside the historic legacy left by the works of those such as James Barnor and Ibrahim El-Salahi for a new show which explores Black contributions to British art. Curated by Aindrea Emelife, Bold, Black & British aims to be a cross-generational, multi-disciplinary exhibition tracking the legacy of Black British creativity. “But it is also a disruption, a trojan horse,” says Emelife: “The widespread absence of Black artists from British art history is symptomatic of an even wider absence in history. We must recover these forgotten or erased histories, reclaim them, celebrate them and immerse ourselves in a rich cultural legacy that has always been there.”

Christie’s will thus be transformed into a fully immersive experience encouraging viewers to delve deep into “the rich artistic creation of Black British art.” Katharine Arnold, co-head of post-war and contemporary art at Christie’s Europe, claims that “Aindrea Emelife is one of the most exciting young curators working today. Spanning the legendary and radical 1980s British Black arts movement to today’s talent fresh out of art school, the exhibition will be both visually spectacular and an important opportunity to learn about this living, breathing and ever-evolving chapter of art history.”

The exhibition will trace the journey of Black British art, beginning at the British Black arts movement: this radical art movement founded in 1982 challenged structural racism, colonialism and patriarchal concepts. In this exhibition, the movement is reflected in the works of Sonia Boyce and Marlene Smith, such as Boyce’s The Audition in Colour 1997/2020, an exploration on the emotional history of Black hair and an exercise in challenging identity perceptions.

Ibrahim El-Salahi, one of the most influential African artists of our time and considered as being part of African modernism and the hurufiyya art movement combining traditional forms of Islamic calligraphy with contemporary artworks, displays his works The Pain Relief. Whereas a new series of photo-texts from John Akomfrah’s, The Monuments of Being, explores colour, race and the legacy of “The great chain of being” (a hierarchical structure of all life thought by medieval Christianity to have been bestowed by God) using grids of giclee photographic prints, and definitions used to categorise and differentiate ethnicities, set on solid blocks of colour, juxtaposed with photographs of fragments of British monuments. This series references poet Caroline Randall Williams’ essay My Body is a Confederate Monument, published in The New York Times last year in response to demonstrations against imperialist monuments.

Other artists involved include: Kesewa Aboah, Tunji Adeniyi-Jones, John Akomfrah, Simeon Barclay, Shannon Bono, Phoebe Boswell, Sonia Boyce, Paul Dash, Kimathi Donkor, Ndidi Emefiele, Ben Enwonwu, Samson Kambalu, Lakwena, Hew Locke, Sahara Longe, Jade Montserrat, Emily Moore, Abe Odedina, Sola Olulode, Zak Ové, Anya Paintsil, Amber Pinkerton, Marlene Smith, and Emmanuel Adjei.

Black, Bold and British opened on 1 October and will run till 21 October at Christie’s London. You can take a virtual tour here.


Ibrahim El-Salahi: Meditation Tree (Courtesy of Christie's, 2021)


Olivia Stirling: Colouring in 5 (2020) (Copyright © Olivia Sterling, 2020)

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Aindrea Emelife, courtesy of Wallpaper.

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Dalia Al-Dujaili

Dalia joined It’s Nice That as a news writer in July 2021 after graduating in English Literature from The University of Edinburgh. She's written for various indie publications such as Azeema and Notion, and ran her own magazine and newsletter platforming marginalised creativity.

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