Artists, critics and museum directors have been hailing the work of Khadija Saye, the 24-year-old photographer who died with her mother Mary Mendy in the Grenfell Tower fire in West London last week. Saye’s work is currently on show in the Diaspora Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in a presentation curated by David A Bailey featuring emerging artists from diverse cultural backgrounds.
The art critic Waldemar Januszczak described Saye’s wet collodion tintypes exploring the migration of traditional Gambian spiritual practices as “standing out across the entire Venice Biennale”. He added: “It was some of the most moving work there.” Januszczak called on Maria Balshaw, the new director of the Tate, to display her work.
Nicola Green, the wife of the Labour MP David Lammy and a portrait painter who mentored Saye, said the young artist was on the cusp of great things. “In the last few weeks she had been invited to show in all kinds of serious galleries, her dreams were actually beginning to manifest themselves in the most exciting way,” Green told the Guardian.
According to the newspaper, Andrew Nairne, the director of Kettle’s Yard gallery, met Saye shortly before she died. “That she had created such a remarkable, powerful, original series of works was quite extraordinary,” he said. “It’s an absolute tragedy–this was such a confident first body of work, but there was so much more to come. She had a remarkable future ahead of her.”
One of Saye's prints is due to go on show at Tate Britain this week as a tribute to the artist and those who died in the Grenfell Tower fire.