Sir John Akomfrah: creating new narratives from history and memory

Sir John Akomfrah: creating new narratives from history and memory

Celebrating Deutsche Bank’s 20 years as Global Lead Partner of Frieze art fairs with a series of 20 articles on 20 featured artists.

Sir John Akomfrah is one of the most important British artists working today. Akomfrah was a founding member of the influential Black Audio Film Collective, formed in London in 1982, alongside artists David Lawson and Lina Gopaul, with whom he still collaborates.

Akomfrah has spent decades developing a multi-layered visual language. His films combine archival footage, still photographs, newly shot material, and newsreels to create complex cinematic essays. He gained recognition in 2012 for his three-screen installation "The Unfinished Conversation" (2012), a moving portrait of the life and work of cultural theorist Stuart Hall. In his three-screen film installation "Vertigo Sea" (2015), he focused on the disorder and cruelty of the whaling industry, juxtaposing it with scenes of many generations of migrants making epic ocean crossings in search of a better life. In 2017, Akomfrah presented his largest film installation to date, “Purple”, which explores climate change, human communities, and wilderness.


In 2017 Akomfrah was awarded the prestigious Artes Mundi Prize. He has had numerous solo exhibitions at venues including Secession, Vienna, Austria (2020); ICA Boston, MA, USA (2019); New Museum, New York, NY, USA (2018); Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Spain (2018); Barbican, London, UK (2017); Tate Britain, London, UK (2013-14); and MoMA, New York, USA (2011).


Sir John Akomfrah and Deutsche Bank

Deutsche Bank began acquiring Akomfrah's work in 2016. The relationship deepened the following year, when his work was featured in the Deutsche Bank Wealth Management Lounge at Frieze London. The lounge exhibition included new photography and the film "Auto Da Fé," which won the Artes Mundi. In his epic photo and video work "Liminality" (2017), the landscape plays a central role. In this work, Akomfrah explores the historical, economic and environmental impact of colonialism, allowing geological and human time to collide. The complex, intertwined relationship between humanity's destruction of the natural world and the self-destruction of our civilisation has remained a central theme in his later work, including “Four Nocturnes” (2019).


He was awarded a knighthood for services to the arts in the 2023 New Year Honours and will represent Britain at the Venice Biennale in 2024.

About this article series

This article forms part of a special series celebrating Deutsche Bank’s 20 years as Global Lead Partner of Frieze art fairs, taking a closer look at one of 20 artists we have collaborated with and whose work features in the Deutsche Bank Collection.

Deutsche Bank's commitment to art and culture

Deutsche Bank is the Global Lead Partner for Frieze art fairs, with 2023 marking the 20th year of the partnership. As part of its Art & Culture commitment, Deutsche Bank has supported and collected the work of cutting-edge, international artists for more than 40 years. A global leader in corporate art programmes, the bank also runs an Artist of the Year programme, as well as its own cultural centre in Berlin, the PalaisPopulaire. All initiatives are based on the strong belief that engagement with art has a positive impact, not only on clients and staff but also on the communities in which the bank operates. Thus further collaborations such as the Deutsche Bank Frieze Los Angeles Film Award in the United States, The Art of Conversation in Italy, the Frieze x Deutsche Bank Emerging Curators Fellowship in the United Kingdom, and the digital platform Art:LIVE, create access to contemporary art for people all around the world. Discover more here.


Please find more information on Deutsche Bank’s art programme at and follow us on Instagram @deutschebankart


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Deutsche Bank Art & Culture

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