Tiwani Contemporary signs up for last remaining space on London’s Cork Street

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Tiwani Contemporary, a gallery focused on artists from Africa and the diaspora, is taking the last space on Mayfair’s Cork Street Galleries development, owned by The Pollen Estate.

The gallery, temporarily based in Cromwell Place in South Kensington, will open its new space at 24 Cork Street at the end of September, in time for Frieze week in October, with solo exhibitions of the British-Nigerian painter Joy Labinjo and the London-based artist Miranda Forrester, whose work explores the queer Black female experience.

The building, designed by Richard Rogers, is currently being fitted out by the London-based architectural studio Matheson Whiteley, with the Lagos-based Nifemi Marcus-Bello overseeing the interiors. Once finished, the two-storey gallery will contain two exhibition spaces (one with a hand-made earth floor), a viewing room, office and ancillary spaces.

Tiwani Contemporary was established by Maria Varnava in 2011 in Fitzrovia, and opened a large gallery in Lagos, Nigeria, last year. When the original Fitzrovia premises were flooded in July 2021, Varnava moved the gallery to shared digs at Cromwell Place and has been looking for a Mayfair location ever since.

Tiwani Contemporary will be the “final permanent gallery to sign on Cork Street”, according to a statement from the Pollen Estate. This has been a while coming—the controversial redevelopment of the middle portion of the street (long known for its largely British art galleries) started in 2016, with the first new gallery, the South African-based Goodman Gallery, moving in in 2019, followed by Frieze’s rotating exhibition space No.9 Cork Street in 2021. Although various galleries have held pop-up exhibitions in the empty units since then, only now are they all spoken for in the long-term, with Stephen Friedman and Alison Jacques also opening galleries alongside Tiwani Contemporary this autumn.

“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,” Varnava says in a statement.

“It’s such a big step for us, and it’s a moment we’re proud of—a culmination of all our hard work over the past 11 years,” Varnava tells The Art Newspaper. “It feels like a new era for the gallery”.

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