Frieze London, in partnership with Deutsche Bank, will partner with artist Ibrahim Mahama to support the fourth iteration of its Emerging Curators Fellowship, an initiative aimed at supporting emerging curators who identify as Black or people of color and are based in the U.K.
The latest fellowship will see the chosen curator working the Whitworth in Manchester, which will launch an open-call application for it next year.
In addition to funding Deutsche Bank provided for the 18-month fellowship, Mahama will offer work at the upcoming edition of Frieze London, which is set to open in under two weeks. All proceeds from those works will go toward supporting the fellows.
“We’re really interested in organizations that that can create a nurturing space for a young curator and demonstrate that they are able to provide this support for them for 18 months,” Eva Langret, the artistic director of Frieze London, told ARTnews. “The idea really isn’t to parachute someone in and for them to try and find their own way inside those institutions.”
In 2019, Mahama had a major exhibition at the Whitworth, where he debuted an installation titled Parliament of Ghosts. His familiarity with the Whitworth made him an appealing partner for the project.
“When we approached Ibrahim, he was very excited to be able to support an institution that had supported him, and he’s been extremely generous in his offer,” Langret said. That offer of support includes not just a print, titled On a spaceship (2022) and made in an edition of 30, but also a new jute-sack work by the artist, Twice as tall (2022).
Langret also pointed to how Mahama’s practice relates to institution-building, in particular with his recently opened Red Clay Studio in Ghana.
In an email, Alistair Hudson, the Whitworth’s director, praised Mahama as an artist “whose social outlook marries so well with the philosophy of the gallery. This is a great opportunity to support new and diverse curatorial talent, as part of our work to transform our institutions and the culture around us.”
The idea for supporting a fellowship program began in 2020, shortly after Langret joined Frieze. It growing out a conversation she had with Zoé Whitley, who had also been recently appointed director of London’s Chisenhale Gallery. Whitley was looking on how to give the preexisting curatorial fellowship program by giving it “a new inflection with a focus on people of color,” Langret said.
She continued, “That’s a conversation that I’m always interested in having, and that always agitates me: to continue to think about how we can make the art world a more equitable and more representative space. The art world has become more visibly diverse and more diverse in terms of programming, but if you look at the structures that are regulating it, it is still not that diverse.”
Chisenhale became Frieze London’s first institutional partner for the Emerging Curators Fellowship, and the fair has since supported fellows at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, England, and the V&A East in London. The fair has intentionally alternated between institutions in London and elsewhere in the U.K. as a way of looking at how to “expand this conversation around equity and representation beyond London, which still tends to steal a lot of the light,” Langret said.
In addition to supporting the work of emerging curators and helping to mitigate the financial cost required to train to become a curator in the U.K., Langret said that Frieze aims to support various nonprofits in addition to its role as a commercial enterprise. Existing partnerships by Frieze London have helped support acquisitions for various U.K. arts organizations, including Tate, the Camden Arts Centre, and the Contemporary Art Society.
That’s a trend that has been on the rise lately at fairs, with more booths going to nonprofits. The Armory Show’s new “Spotlight” section has recently placed the focus on local arts organizations like the Kitchen.
“It’s always been part of our DNA and our mission,” Langret said. “For us, the fair only ever make sense when it works in tandem with the wider art ecosystem in which it operates. It really is an important moment to cast a light on where attention is needed, and so often that’s in the nonprofit sector. For me, the fair makes sense when you can use it to do good.”