Africa is finding its right place in world of contemporary art – New African Magazine
The 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair (the first and only international art fair dedicated exclusively to contemporary art from Africa, and its diaspora) is open now. New African speaks to its founder as the London edition of 2022 opens. Touria El Glaoui.
When 1-54 London was first opened in 2013, what were your expectations? And how did you see the Fair evolving over the years.
2013 was my year to create a platform that would promote meaningful conversations and reflections among contemporary African and African Diasporic artists.
I created a space to bring together collectors and directors, curators critics, curators, curators, curators, academics, and new audiences with a curiosity to explore an expanding market.
1-54 strives for the display of the many forms of contemporary art from Africa, its diaspora, on an international stage. I felt that it was only natural that people would pay attention to what we were doing.
1-54 was able increase visibility and new audiences through the Fair’s inaugurations in New York in 2015, Marrakech 2018 and Paris 2021. It also helped to change the way institutions, cultural producers and collectors engage artists from the African continent.
How have you seen the African art market change in the past ten years? Do you believe 1-54 played a part in this?
Since 2013, the contemporary African art market has changed dramatically. 1-54 played a pivotal role in changing the landscape of contemporary African art and its perceptions from Africa and its diaspora.
The 1-54 model is more than just commercial. It encourages collaboration and exchange between curators and artists, galleries, foundations, and any other person who shares our vision.
Through these conversations, on both a local and international level, we have witnessed the growth of art ecosystems, a change in the demographic of collectors – and an increase in opportunities made available to young and emerging artists inside and outside of the continent.
These changes to both the art market and the existing art ecosystem are crucial. We see a community that champions information sharing and knowledge production, visibility, creation of cultural spaces and, most importantly, the celebration and appreciation of African and African Diasporic arts practices.
After a decade since 1-54’s inception, you’ve expanded the Fair to three continents, with editions in London, Marrakech, New York, and a pop-up Fair in Paris. What are your most proud moments?
It has been a thrilling journey to see 1-54 grow in the past decade. What I’m most proud of is the exceptional array of artists and galleries we’ve been able to support each year.
I am grateful to have been able not only to help include contemporary African artists in the main international art market but also in private collections and institutional exhibitions. I really feel that we’ve made available a multitude of opportunities for those who we’ve been lucky to engage with thus far.
I’m also proud to have maintained 1-54 Forum, our educational programme, which has been part of the Fair since 2013. This programme allows us to engage discussions and give talks and has been an integral part of our collaboration with key institutional actors.
What are you most excited for in the 10th London edition of The Guardian? Are there any projects that you are most excited about?
This year, I am most looking forward to 1-54’s collaboration with Somerset House. We will be showcasing a monumental installation by Grada Kilomba, Portuguese interdisciplinary artist/writer.O Barco/The BoatSomerset House courtyard.
The sculpture is based on the design of a historical slave ship and addresses the history of European colonization. The installation is accompanied by live music that combines song, dance, and musicality. It invites the audience into contemplating forgotten stories and identities.
Another project I look forward to is 1-54 Love LetterA unique blend of teas to celebrate the 10-year anniversary 1 54 was created in collaboration by Hassan Hajjaj. The tea is a true ‘love letter’ to the continent, bringing together a select blend of ingredients that exemplify the richness of the continent. This is an exciting and ambitious project, as we’ve been able to work with one of our long-term collaborators and friends.
Recent years have seen a renewed interest in contemporary African art by galleries, institutions, and collectors. They are now purchasing work from contemporary African artists and displaying them in important exhibitions. What do you attribute this growth to?
I believe that we are experiencing more international interest than ever before. It is long overdue! Even though art from Africa, and its diaspora, still accounts for a small percentage in global art sales over the past few years – this increased interest has prompted many institutions working in the international art market sector to reassess the barriers which have kept galleries and artists from Africa and their diaspora out of the market.
Part of 1-54’s vision is to continue encouraging this growth and be part of the collective effort toward firm inclusivity within the wider global art market.
What do you see for the Fair’s future?
1-54 is a place of discovery that continues to showcase the best contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora. 1-54 plans to explore new places in Africa and around world to foster new connections, talents, and opportunities.
We are excited to explore new areas that aren’t as familiar with contemporary art. From Africa and its diaspora, as well as to continue giving our artists a platform where they can promote their work, make connections and build a professional career internationally.
Read more about the 10th London edition of 1-54 in “10 artists to watch at this year’s 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair in London“
Source: New African Magazine