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London Art Fair Photo50 Beautiful Experiments: ALT chats with curators Pelumi Odubanjo and Katy Barron

London Art Fair Photo50 Beautiful Experiments: ALT chats with curators Pelumi Odubanjo and Katy Barron

London Art Fair is set to return to launch the international art calendar with a line-up of over 100 leading Modern & Contemporary galleries from across the globe from 18-22 January 2023.

The 2023 edition of Photo50, Beautiful Experiments, curated by Pelumi Odubanjo and Katy Barron, (main image) will present the work of a group of multigenerational women and non-binary photographers whose practice engages with their Black and mixed diasporic heritage.


Pelumi Odubanjo is a curator, researcher, and writer based in London. Her interests in contemporary art are cross-disciplinary, although her understanding is filtered through the lens of Photography which informs both her work as a curator and researcher. Pelumi works with artists, archives, and cultural artefacts to create and explore dialogues across a global African diaspora to disentangle our understanding of archival practice. Pelumi has a BA from Newcastle University in Fine Art, and an MA from Goldsmith’s, University of London in Contemporary Art Theory. She is currently a PhD candidate in History of Art at the University of Glasgow.

Her writing on contemporary photography, art, and culture has appeared in Magnum Photos, New Contemporaries, Artillery Magazine, Photoworks, and Photo Fringe amongst others. Pelumi currently works as an Assistant Curator at the Serpentine Galleries, and has curated at festivals and institutions such as Photo Oxford, 2021, the Tate Exchange at Tate Modern, 2020, Brighton Photo Fringe, 2020, and the Black Cultural Archives, 2020.

Katy Barron is a photography curator, mentor and advisor based in London. She has worked within the field of photography for the past 20 years, focusing on contemporary and twentieth century artists. Katy has undertaken a myriad of roles within the field – from Senior Director at Michael Hoppen Gallery to Chair of the Board of Photofusion. She currently works for the Maud Sulter Estate in Glasgow and is helping other women artists with issues around their archives, estates and legacies. Katy has a BA from the Courtauld Institute of Art and an M. Litt in the History of Art from Oxford University. She has curated numerous photographic exhibitions in the UK and abroad, most recently at Four Corners in Bethnal Green, St John’s College, Oxford as a part of the Photo Oxford festival and at Photofusion, Brixton.

The exhibition echoes Saidiya Hartmann’s Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Riotous Black Girls, Troublesome Women, and Queer Radicals, as such, this year’s exhibition is named Beautiful Experiments. Beautiful Experiments includes works from the 1980s through to the present day and presents diverse imagery by artists that reflects their
histories and personal ideas of home and identity.

Join collectors and art lovers at the Business Design Centre in #Islington to discover the very best artwork on the market today, experience sensational live performances and immersive installations, and engage in debate and discussion with art world icons and industry experts. It gets even better we are giving away SIX tickets to the fair, with a sign up to our Winter 2022 ALT REVIEW subscription. you with get one ticket worth 34.99. On subscribing email marketing @alt -africa. com. Please state which day you would like to attend.

ALT spoke to the two curators behind the Beautiful Experiments: in LAF.

ALT: What do you like most about the medium of photography?

We love the immediacy of photography and its flexibility – it can take many forms and can be used in so many ways. It is also a democratic medium that is available to almost everyone who has a smart phone.

ALT: What lead you to use photography as form of expression?

We chose to curate photography as the subject of the exhibition is so well expressed through photographs.

ALT: What made you want to curate the London art fair?

Photo50 at the London Art Fair has always been an opportunity to see new curators and new visions of photography. It is a space that attracts a wide range of visitor and we were excited to reach both those in the photography world but also a general art-loving audience. 

ALT: Why have you chosen to give voice to the African Diaspora through you work? (Pelumi)…

This exhibition highlights the work of artists from the African diaspora each with very different approaches and narratives to the theme of Home. It was crucial to include these voices as we felt the stories …
… this, we have equally as important voice of the Caribbean diaspora in the show, and both have allowed us to tell deeply personal stories reflective of diasporic histories in and away from Britain,

ALT. How do you keep that conversation nuanced?

By centring the fact that with each image, there is a deeply personal story and narrative that the artist has created. As curators, it was crucial that we started from here, and allowed the context to naturally ingrain itself in the work. 

ALT: How did you pick the creatives in the art fair and what made them stand out for you? 

We chose the photographers in the exhibition through our personal relationships as well as deeper knowledge of their work. Many of them are people that we have wanted to work with for a long time and we were delighted to be able to find a way to engage with their work curatorially and to give them a voice. 

ALT. What made you decide curation was the the way to work?

Curation is a way to bring ideas to reality and to express meaningful arguments in a compelling visual way that can excite and engage people. Being a curator is a privilege and we both love what we do!

ALT. What skills do curators need to do their job?

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Curators need real expertise and knowledge of their subject as well as an interest in collaborating with artists and all of the other people that make exhibitions happen. Curators need to be open to conversations and ideas and also flexible as things can always go wrong. 

ALT. What challenges do you think the exhibition /Art industry faces with the current cost of living crisis?

The arts have been deeply affected by both Covid and now the cost of living crisis as museums and galleries can’t afford to open and heat their spaces. Some public galleries have become ‘warm hubs’ which is a great way of using the spaces that you have to help. The cost of living crisis is something that affects everyone, and artist often live very precarious lives and find it hard to make ends meet even when times are good. The exhibition allows us to show their work and hopefully to raise their profiles, which in turn will help them to find opportunities to exhibit and sell their work in the future.

ALT. What has been some of the trends and changes to such spaces since the pandemic?

Art fairs have become much more interested in offering a more curated experience and to go beyond being selling spaces. We don’t know if this is due to the pandemic or because there is such an appetite for art and for learning more about it.

ALT. who are the artist that most excite you right now?

We are both so excited by the works of all of the artists in the show, but perhaps we could highlight the younger generation of photographers included in our exhibition, including Heather Agyepong, Sofia Yala, Adaeze Ihebom, Bernice Mulenga, Adama Jalloh, and Rubee Samuel. Each are making such different and poignant works, and experimenting greatly with different ways to discuss culture, heritage, and other conversations, alongside deeply personal topics.

ALT. Do you think spaces like the London art fair are becoming more inclusive?

We believe so. We are seeing a slight shift in fairs to widen ideas of what is conventional art and what audiences want to see. There will always be issues of access and exclusivity, so we hope there will soon be shifts in these, and more opportunities to bring art to wider audiences.

This promotion is open to all residents of the UK, including the Channel Islands, aged 18 years or older. The closing date for entries is 17th on January 5pm.  𝘛𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘪𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘰𝘯𝘭𝘺 𝘱𝘢𝘨𝘦 𝘢𝘴𝘴𝘰𝘤𝘪𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴𝘤𝘰𝘮𝘱𝘦𝘵𝘪𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘨𝘪𝘷𝘦𝘢𝘸𝘢𝘺 𝘪𝘴 𝘪𝘯 𝘯𝘰 𝘸𝘢𝘺 𝘴𝘱𝘰𝘯𝘴𝘰𝘳e𝘥, 𝘢𝘥𝘮𝘪𝘯𝘪𝘴𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘦𝘥 𝘰𝘳 𝘦𝘯𝘥𝘰𝘳𝘴𝘦𝘥 𝘣𝘺 𝘐𝘯𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘨𝘳𝘢𝘮.

WHEN: 18 – 22 January 2023
Business Design Centre, Islington
Explore an exceptional line-up of Modern and Contemporary galleries from across the globe, and experience sensational live performances, immersive installations, and an inspiring programme of talks and tours