1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair
("Earth's Skin" by El Anatsui - Photo credit brooklynmuseum.org)
African art is becoming an increasingly recognised and coveted commodity within the global art market. 1:54 is Europe’s leading art fair dedicated to Contemporary African Art and after three successful London editions and a successful US launch last year, it returns this month to New York. Named after the 54 countries on the African continent, 1:54 showcases the diversity of contemporary African art and cultural production. We spoke to the fair's Founding Director Touria El Glaoui ahead of Friday's opening night to find out more.
How did 1:54 begin and what is your vision for it?
My initial interest in the arts stemmed from my native country Morocco and its culture. Beyond that, in the wider sphere of contemporary art from the continent, my interests developed following extensive travel in Africa and afar through my previous professional role. The vision has always been to showcase the best contemporary African and African Diasporan art we can find, while working with informed exhibitors, completely passionate about the development and presentation of their artists, and to engage with a multitude of audiences.
Given the vast size of Africa and its huge diversity, how are you able to achieve equal representation for all 54 countries? Do you have any favourite artists?
17 exhibitors, showcasing the works of over 60 artists will participate in the New York edition of 1:54. Exhibitors will hail from global territories such as South Africa, Cote D’Ivoire, Italy, France, Switzerland, the UK and the US, while the artists will draw from more than 27 African countries and the African diaspora. We aim to highlight the best exhibitors and artists working in the field across international parameters. Given the size of 1:54, and the intimate venue of the New York edition (Pioneers Works in Brooklyn), it would be impossible to work with exhibitors located in every African country. In this sense, the fair isn’t a survey presentation but a showcase of the most engaging, rigorous and exciting artists at this time, represented by dedicated and pioneering exhibitors.
What is the market for African art like? Have you seen a rise in recognition and value of contemporary African pieces?
In recent years, yes. Artists with solid trajectories behind them are receiving more and more recognition, almost retrospectively. This means a more defined presence within art fairs, major gallery representation, and prestigious awards, such as the Ghanaian sculptor El Anatsui receiving the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the 56th Venice Biennale. Another leading New York art fair, The Armory Show also spotlighted a section on contemporary art from Africa and the African diaspora and 3 out of 4 artists nominated for the prestigious 2016 Marcel Duchamp prize coming this fall in Paris are African.
Plan a Visit
1:54's next edition takes place in New York from May 6-8th 2016 and will return to London October 6th-9th 2016.
Fore more information, head over to 1-54.com
For more information about the African art scene, read "The New Face of African Art" on The Wall Street Journal.