Autograph is delighted to loan more than 40 works from our collection by British-Ghanaian photographer James Barnor, to Serpentine Galleries' exhibition James Barnor: Accra/London - A Retrospective.
This major loan reflects Autograph's longstanding commitment to and advocacy of Barnor's work, and features works unearthed and printed for the first time during Autograph’s curatorial archive research programme, The Missing Chapter, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2009-10. It was our great pleasure to introduce Barnor's remarkable photographs with his first comprehensive solo exhibition James Barnor: Ever Young at Autograph's gallery in Hackney more than a decade ago.
Born in 1929 in Accra, Barnor is considered a pioneer of Ghanaian photography – with a career that spans six decades and covers a remarkable period in history, bridging continents and photographic genres to create transatlantic narratives marked by his passionate interest in people and culture. Through street and studio portraiture, Barnor’s photographs represent societies in transition: Ghana moving towards its independence and London becoming a cosmopolitan, multicultural metropolis during the ‘swinging sixties’.
A trained studio photographer and photojournalist, Barnor photographed friends and family as well as fashion models and celebrities, who would pose for him against the backdrop of the city’s most iconic monuments - often commissioned by Drum magazine, South Africa’s influential anti-apartheid journal for lifestyle and politics – before returning to Accra in 1969. He is now widely recognised as a major figure in contemporary African photography and celebrated globally.
Eva, London, 1960s
Drum cover girl Marie Hallowi #1, Rochester, Kent, 1966
Mike Eghan at Picadilly Circus, London, 1967
Untitled #8, Kokomlemle, Accra, c. 1972
Selina Opong, Policewoman #10, Ever Young Studio, Accra, c. 1954
Untitled #2, two friends dressed for a church celebration, Accra, 1970s
Olas comedians, Ever Young Studio, Accra, c. 1953-1954
Drum cover girl Erlin Ibreck, London, 1966
Ginger Nyarku, featherweight boxer with Coronation Belt, Accra, 1953
Autograph is immensely proud of our work with James Barnor over many years, starting in 2009 during The Missing Chapter. The mission of this project was to promote and preserve the work of key —and often unrecognised—artists working in photography and cultural identity politics in Britain. Led by our senior curator Renée Mussai, this programme resulted in the ground-breaking 2010 exhibition James Barnor: Ever Young and the artist’s first monograph published five years later in collaboration with Clémentine de la Féronnière gallery. In the decade since, we have helped open a continuous process of recognition for Barnor's remarkable work and his crucial contributions to the history of photography.
The Ever Young exhibition has toured internationally since 2010 to prestigious galleries and museums including Theaster Gates’ Stony Island Art Bank, Rebuild Foundation, USA; Rudenstein Gallery, W.E.B. Du Bois Institute, Harvard University, USA; SANG Iziko South African National Gallery, South Africa; Impressions Gallery, UK; and most recently Casa Africa, Canary Islands, Spain.
To ensure Barnor's lasting legacy, Autograph has placed many of Barnor's now-iconic photographs in major collections, including Tate Britain, Victoria & Albert Museum and the UK Government Art Collection, as well Wedge Collection (CA); The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College (USA); Brighton Museum & Gallery (UK); and Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen (NL).
A selection of his Barnor’s vintage and modern works were also accessioned into Autograph's collection of photography. And, to support the artist and our work as a charity, a portfolio of limited-edition prints has been made available exclusively through Autograph since 2010.
(For)ever Young: A Tribute to James Barnor
Autograph's senior curator Renée Mussai reflects on Barnor's legacy with Autograph
Download Autograph's James Barnor: Ever Young newspaper
Free on our blog
Read Riason Naidoo's interview with Renée Mussai
about her work with Barnor, at Africa is a Country
Watch our video about James Barnor
Purchase limited edition prints of James Barnor's photographs thorough Autograph. Some of Barnor's most iconic images are available as exclusive collectors' editions, including many of he works currently on loan to Serpentine Galleries. Autograph is a registered charity, and all proceeds generated through limited edition print sales enable us to support the artist and our arts and learning programmes. Prices start at £2500 + VAT.
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The original curatorial research into James Barnor’s work, culminating in the James Barnor: Ever Young exhibition, was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. A further selection of vintage photographs by Barnor was acquired for Autograph’s collection of photography during our project In A Different Light (2016-17), also supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
All photographs by James Barnor are © the artist.
Images, from top: 1) James Barnor, Untitled #2, two friends dressed for a church celebration, Accra, 1970 [detail]. Courtesy of Autograph.
A selection of the loan images: 2 - 10) Photographs by James Barnor, courtesy of Autograph.
Other page images: 11) From the Ever Young Studio at Rivington Place. Photograph by James Barnor. 16) James Barnor, Untitled #4, Sick-Hagemeyer shop assistant, Accra, 1971. Courtesy Autograph. 17) James Barnor, Untitled - Studio X23, Accra, c.1975. Courtesy Autograph.
Slideshow: 12) James Barnor and Renée Mussai, from the Ever Young Studio at Rivington Place, 2010. 13) Photograph by Renée Mussai. 14) James Barnor: Ever Young book. Published by Autograph and Clémentine de la Féronnière Gallery, 2015. 15) Courtesy Casa Africa.
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