Arts + Culture
Touria El Glaoui at the 1-54 2018 preview. Photo by Katrina Sorrentino, courtesy of SUTTON.

In Conversation with 1-54 Founder Touria El Glaoui on the Fair's Constant Transformation

We catch up with director of the 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, Touria El Glaoui , whose New York edition launched this week.

Since the first edition of 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair took place in London in 2013, a lot has happened with the fair. New York followed in 2014 as an additional venue, and Morocco became the first African country where the fair was held this year.

What remains the same is the focus on the 54 countries of the continent, to which the name refers, and the goal of promoting a global dialogue and exchange from an African perspective.

Touria El Glaoui, founder and director, uses the fourth edition of the New York Fair as an opportunity to draw an interim conclusion that sets 1-54 as a model in constant transformation.

Read more in our conversation below.

Ann Mbuti for OkayAfrica: 2018 has been the first year in which 1-54 had an edition in an African country. Why now?

Touria El Glaoui: Our goal from the very start was to have a physical presence on the African continent and create direct channels of exchange between Africa, Europe and North America. Having created a global platform and steadily strengthened our position in London and New York, we wanted to use this momentum to bring the focus back to the continent. Morocco has an extensive art and cultural history, and through its trade has been a link between the African continent and Europe. In some way by having the fair across continents we also serve as a connector. There are many reasons we chose to situate ourselves in Marrakech. One of them being that in the past year there have been more Africa-centered initiatives in Marrakech such as the opening of art institutions (MACAAL), and a significant growth in Morocco's contemporary art scene in general. We wanted to be a part of that development and introduce galleries and collectors to this budding market.


Touria El Glaoui. Photo by Javier Salas, courtesy of SUTTON.

What were the main conclusions you drew from there?

Marrakech is absolutely alive. It is a city that values its traditional culture and heritage, where one can vividly see the present in dialogue with the past. There are renowned Moroccan artists many of whom use traditional dry mediums, however through the contemporary turn we have seen a surge of new media and multi-disciplinary artists using performance, photography, sound, installation and film. There is so much vibrancy and enthusiasm emanating from practitioners, institutions, patrons and audiences. With new initiatives such as galleries and institutions finding form there are opportunities for tremendous growth as well as space for new discussions to be nurtured. I am eager to see how the contemporary art scene is going to progress and the visual languages that will emerge from a country that already has such a rich culture and history.

Did the experience of the Marrakesh edition influence the NY edition starting this weekend?

Every edition provides us with an opportunity to learn and be inspired, therefore we revise our practices accordingly. We are in constant search of more effective and innovative ways to produce the fair so as to provide a valuable experience for exhibitors and audiences.

You were quoted in an article saying that people are still surprised how vivid the contemporary art scene in African countries is. How would you describe 1-54's role in changing that?

Yes, how could there be a single image of 'contemporary African art' when we are speaking about a continent of 54 countries each with their own infrastructures, politics, socioeconomic conditions, languages, cultures and so on. 1-54 is a part of a wider collective effort to highlight the innumerable voices that make up the contemporary art scene of Africa and its diaspora. By dedicating the platform to such practitioners and their stories we remind audiences that the image of 'contemporary African art' is not static, it is constantly evolving. This is why we have a rigorous exhibitor selection process headed by the selection committee to ensure that with each edition there is a deeper nuancing of perspectives. We also have the Special Projects and FORUM talks program which promote innovative and critical artistic and thinking practices.

Are there differences depending where the fair is held?

There are, and we try to use these differences to make each iteration a unique experience. The fair is tailored to each site and responds to the architecture of the space, the local art communities and the more-subtle social dynamics of that particular environment. Our extended public program of off-site events is one of the ways in which we tap into the wider art scene and public. We strive by all means to forge meaningful and sustainable relationships in each space while retaining the 1-54 voice and objectives. With some returning exhibitors there will always be a sense of familiarity, but the content creates a new level of engagement that cannot be duplicated.

Major art fairs like the Armory Show or Art Basel are rethinking their concepts, they offer more supporting program, downsize, etc. What is next for 1-54?

We see 1-54 as a model in constant transformation. We would like to further build on the three iterations and form a global network with more opportunities for collaboration throughout the year. Our goal is to work towards a future, wherein global African identities are unhindered by cultural and political hegemonies and are wholly valued as agents in contemporary arenas of knowledge sharing, art and cultural production, the marketplace and global industries.

Arts + Culture
Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga, Untitled, 2019, Acrylic and oil on canvas, 200 x 200 cm, Courtesy October Gallery.

1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair NY Marks 5 Years Making Manhattan's Industria Its New Home

The leading international art fair dedicated to amplifying contemporary art from diverse African perspectives returns to New York this May—here's what you need to know.

This year's New York edition of 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair is around the corner as it continues to present contemporary art from diverse African perspectives—this time at a new home.

"Our fifth anniversary in New York comes at a moment of tremendous change and excitement for the fair," says Touria El Glaoui, 1-54's Founding Director, in a statement. "While we've enjoyed four years of incredible support from Pioneer Works in Brooklyn, the fair's move to the West Village responds to the desires of both our galleries and our visitors and will greatly expand the opportunities for audiences to discover the very best contemporary African art in the heart of Manhattan."

Taking place from May 3 to May 5 with a preview day on May 2, 1-54 will mark its fifth edition at Industria in Manhattan's West Village. Twenty-four galleries from Belgium, Côte d'Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Ghana, Kenya, Martinique, Morocco, Nigeria, Portugal, Senegal, South Africa,Turkey, the UK and the US are set to display work from over 65 artists. In keeping with the fair's mission to embrace a diverse and global mix of galleries that are dedicated to supporting and amplifying African artists from around the world, 12 new galleries are joining the fold with five solo exhibitions in tow.

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Bisi Silva, independent curator and founder of the Lagos-based Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA), lost her battle with cancer Tuesday, PM News Nigeria reports.

"With a deep sense of loss, we regret to announce the passing of our Founder and Artistic Director of Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos, Olabisi Silva who passed away on Tuesday 12 February 2019," Iheanyi Onwuegbucha, the CCA's associate curator announced in a statement.

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The South African music scene has seen an uptick in youthful, vocally gifted artists over the years. Much of this is owed to the recent global resurgence of R&B, as well as the increased significance of streaming sites, especially SoundCloud.

From internet-savvy artists creating jazz, alternative soul and house-infused spoken word to radio friendly iterations of pop and Afro-soul, 2019 has been the year of impactful debut performances.

This year ushered in the voices of a new generation of South African female artists announcing themselves to the world.

Here's a lowdown of 10 great releases from talented female vocalists, songwriters and composers marking this new era.

Read ahead below. This list is in no particular order.

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Listen to Stormzy's New Album 'Heavy is the Head'

The British-Ghanaian grime star has dropped his much-anticipated sophomore album featuring YEBBA, H.E.R., Burna Boy, Ed Sheeran, Tiana Major9 and Headie One.

British-Ghanaian rapper Stormzy has finally dropped his much-anticipated sophomore album Heavy is the Head. The album comes two years after he released his debut album Gang Signs & Prayer.

The 16-track project features the likes of American singer-songwriter YEBBA, H.E.R., Burna Boy, British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran, Tiana Major9 and Headie One.

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