Tiwani Contemporary announces milestone expansion with new Mayfair gallery on Cork Street

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Tiwani Contemporary announces milestone expansion with new Mayfair gallery on Cork Street
Exterior of Tiwani Contemporary, 24 Cork Street (architectural render). ©MATHESON WHITELEY and Joy Labinjo.

LONDON.- Tiwani Contemporary announced its move to a new gallery space at 24 Cork Street, Mayfair, London. This move, alongside establishing and opening a Lagos gallery space in 2022, represents a significant milestone for Tiwani Contemporary and foregrounds the Gallery’s plans for the next ten years and beyond. Cork Street Galleries, an initiative of The Pollen Estate, is delighted to welcome Tiwani Contemporary as the final permanent gallery to sign on Cork Street, marking a new chapter in Cork Street’s history and heralding a new era for modern and contemporary art in London.

Designed by Matheson Whiteley architectural studio (London), with interiors and furnishings by designer Nifemi Marcus-Bello (Lagos), the gallery will be located on the ground floor corner of Burlington Gate, a recently completed mixed-use building by renowned architect Richard Rogers. Founded in 2011 by Maria Varnava, Tiwani Contemporary’s primary mission is to represent artists from Africa and its global diaspora. Maria Varnava said:

“Tiwani Contemporary is a global leader in the representation of visual arts practice from contemporary Africa and its diaspora, and the Cork Street premises are a signal of our continuous commitment, intent and ambition for the artists we represent and exhibit. Together our galleries will be a bridge between the African continent and its international diaspora, allowing us to programme and exhibit art by our represented and exhibited artists on a larger scale, both literally and metaphorically.”

The gallery will inaugurate the new space in autumn 2023 with events, and solo exhibitions by Joy Labinjo followed by Miranda Forrester, both of whom will present new paintings centred around portraiture and domesticity.

Tiwani Contemporary will join a roster of leading contemporary galleries resident on Cork Street. The Pollen Estate spearheaded a major initiative in 2016 aimed at re-establishing Cork Street’s reputation as the most prestigious, dedicated street for art in the world. This initiative tripled the available gallery space on Cork Street, making it the highest concentration of galleries in the UK. Goodman Gallery was the first new gallery to sign on Cork Street in 2019, followed by No.9 Cork Street - Frieze’s first permanent exhibition space for international galleries - in 2021. Stephen Friedman and Alison Jacques will also open gallery spaces on Cork Street alongside Tiwani Contemporary in the autumn of 2023. Jenny Casebourne - Head of Portfolio, The Pollen Estate said:

"Tiwani Contemporary's arrival as the final permanent gallery on Cork Street ushers in a dynamic new epoch in the street's impressive history, affirming its reputation as one of the most prestigious and dedicated streets for art in the world."

MATHESON WHITELEY's design for the gallery imagines a surprisingly complex set of spaces, while at the same time introducing a new patina to the Richard Rogers building. The new space will consist of two exhibition spaces, a viewing room, office and support spaces. The ground floor 800 square-foot gallery will be light-filled, with a hand-made earth floor designed to contrast with the industrial finishes of the Rogers building. A new timber stair connects to the 560 square-foot lower ground floor gallery space, viewing room and support areas. Here an existing concrete floor will be reused, lending a raw quality to the spaces.

Nigerian industrial and furniture designer Nifemi Marcus-Bello (nmbello Studio), who collaborated with Tiwani Contemporary on its Lagos gallery will design bespoke furniture for 24 Cork Street, creating further synergy between the London and Lagos spaces. The winner of the 2022 Hublot Design Prize and selected as Emerging Designer of The Year in the 2023 Monocle Design Awards, Marcus-Bello’s sustainability-minded approach will focus on the use of materials from the African continent, including timber from Nigeria and the Congo, for his first project in the UK.

Varnava established Tiwani Contemporary, which loosely translates as “ours” or “it belongs to us” from the Yoruba language, with the encouragement of her friend and mentor, renowned Nigerian international curator, Bisi Silva (1962- 2019). Silva proposed the name as an encapsulation of the gallery’s intention, which includes providing a space inclusive to everyone, and a safe space for dialogue that values nuance and considers context and the multiple dimensions of identity, being, and belonging. Born in Cyprus, Varnava spent her childhood years in Lagos where she absorbed the visual language of Nigeria and developed the lens through which she has subsequently approached contemporary visual arts practice. This formative experience was followed by studies in African Studies with a focus in African Art at London's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), and several years at Christie’s working in business development, before venturing out on her own.

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