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The 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair returns to Pioneer Works this spring, taking place from May 6-8 during Frieze Week. It started last year as a pop-up satellite edition, a platform that promotes art projects and artists from Africa and the diaspora, after launching in London in 2013. After seeing success among galleries, and the engagement of collectors, the public, and museums last year, 17 exhibitors will showcase over 60 emerging and established artists. Whitewaller spoke with the founder and director of the fair, Touria El Glaoui.
WHITEWALLER: This is the second year of 1:54 in New York. What are some of your thoughts looking back on last year’s inaugural edition? And how will the fair change or expand this May?
TOURIA EL GLAOUI: For its second edition here in New York, we are delighted to announce several new features, including Special Projects 2016 and 1:54 Performs. Special Projects will encompass one-off events, such a book signing and presentation with artist Mickalene Thomas to mark her recent publication with Aperture, as well as provide a platform across the three days for projects and international collaborations. These include the Dakar Biennale, Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg, Clocktower Radio (based at Pioneer Works), and Stephen Burks Man Made. And I’m very excited to announce a new performance section co-presented with Performa and curated by Adrienne Edwards, Curator at Performa and Curator-at-Large at the Walker Art Center.
Curated by Koyo Kouoh, FORUM, 1:54’s discursive conversations series, also returns and will pivot around a number of key themes, including the status of the African art market, curating in the digital age, and contemporary forms of dissemination and exhibition.
WW: You launched 1:54 in London in 2013. How does the London edition differ from the U.S. edition? How does the collector base of the U.S. compare to Europe in terms of understanding an interest in the African art market?
TEG: The market for African and African diasporan artworks is going from strength to strength in the U.S. It is already largely developed, more so than in the U.K., with several major museums and institutions in New York dedicated to promoting African diasporan practices—Brooklyn Museum, MoCADA, for example, and myriad galleries are contributing toward its market, in addition to contemporary art discourse and discussion.
WW: What makes sense for you about the venue of Pioneer Works for the New York fair?
TEG: Pioneer Works has an incredible lineup of artist residencies, exhibitions, and educational programs, and we are so honored to have our fair here. Many of the artists and educational programs tie very closely into 1:54. For example, the winter/spring 2016 Artists-in- Residency program includes Omar Victor Diop, who will also have work present at the fair this spring. Also, artist Derrick Adams, who will be having an exhibition at Pioneer Works this June, will also have work at 1:54. It’s so exciting that we are able to make these connections to the place our fair takes place in the U.S.
WW: In what ways do you see the African art market evolving in the future? Is it greater representation of African and African diasporan artists in the U.S., Europe, Asia, MENASA, or Sub-Saharan Africa? An increase in galleries within the continent?
TEG: Since I started in 2013, there is certainly a greater representation of African and African Diasporan artists in international exhibitions, art fairs in Europe, and the U.S. Every edition of 1:54, with the application process, we have new galleries applying from different corners of the continent—such as Addis Fine Art in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, or Gallery 1957 in Accra, Ghana—that are starting their journey. We are definitely on the right path during the exhibition. Of course, I’m very excited to see how the piece evolves.
1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair takes place May 6-8 at Pioneer Works.