A Downsized Version of the Celebrated 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair Returns to London
Taking place once again at Somerset House, 1-54 stages its eighth edition against the challenging backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic
Despite the cancellation of Frieze London and Frieze Masters, the pioneering art fair for contemporary and modern African art 1-54 decided to go ahead as planned. While the hassles arising from the unceasing global coronavirus pandemic have put a damper on most international art fairs, Touria El Glaoui, founder and director of 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair decide to spearhead along as planned.
“We have a responsibility to our galleries and artists to support them and platform their work,” said El Glaoui. “This is even more so the case in challenging times when opportunities to do so are less accessible or unable to continue as they usually would. The contemporary African art scene is made up of numerous of art scenes that have each felt COVID-19 in different and, at times unpredictable ways. They need to have support.”
This year, there are 36 international exhibitors from across Europe, Africa and North America showcasing more than 110 in the fair’s physical and online edition. For the first time the fair has partnered with Christie’s to produce a simultaneous digital fair that opens it up to more exhibitors—those who may not wish to travel because of various restrictions. With Christie’s it will also host a 1-54 pop-up exhibition at the Duke Street Gallery in London. The fair’s regular 1-54 Forum talks program will also take place curated this year by Contemporary And (C&), titled “I felt like a Black guy from New York trapped in Peru” inspired by the productive networks of creatives of the Global Diaspora.
“For the first time the entire program will be focusing on creative ties between Afro-Latin America, The Caribbean and Africa,” explained El Glaoui. “Talks will be exploring a multitude of art scenes; the ‘Modes of Resistance’ panel will discuss current urgencies and strategies in the context of the Brazilian art scenes, while the panel ‘A View from the Other Side of Things’ will discuss notions of inequality and invisibility in Colombia’s creative art sector through afro-Colombian perspectives. There will also be a keynote led by Aldeide Delgado exploring the use of the expression ‘Latinx.’”
Other highlights of the fair include several solo exhibitions, including DuduBloom More at Berman Contemporary; Anya Paintsil at Ed Cross Fine Art and Ekene Maduka at Polartics.
There’s also a special free exhibition staged in collaboration with Somerset House by late French Moroccan photographer Leila Alaoui called Rite of Passage assembling a range of works from the artist’s rich body of photography portraying the cultural identities and resilience of societies facing difficult and uncertain circumstances. The subjects captured are those to which Alaoui dedicated her life to tell their plight. They are Syrian refugees fleeing civil war in Lebanon as well as North Africans seeking a new life in Europe. On show are three of Alaoui’s pivotal series of photographic works created between 2008 and 2014: Les Marocains (2010), No Pasara (2008) and Natreen (2013).
Alaoui was tragically killed in 2016 at the age of 33 while working on a photography project for a women’s rights campaign for Amnesty International in Burkina Faso.
“At a time when many peoples attentions are understandably focused at home, lives in other parts of the world can feel particularly distant,” said Grace Perrett, Exhibitions Manager at Somerset House and curator of the exhibition.
“Documenting the lives of migrants in No Pasara, and those fleeing the Syrian conflictin Natreen (We Wait), Alaoui’s photographs are a timely reminder that these global crises persist,” she added. “As documented in recent news reports, migrants are still making the dangerous journey across the sea to Europe and those already living in precarious conditions in refugee camps are vulnerable to outbreaks of COVID-19.”
1-54 is an art fair long committed not just to the buying and selling of art from the African continent, but to the dissemination of knowledge and a growth of understanding about Africa.
“Beyond the market and growth, the arts have a tremendous power to help society through tough times and to help us interpret and manage our world, arts are imperative to this moment,” added El Glaoui. “We all turn to some form of creative expression in times of difficulty, so if there was ever a time to support the arts, it is now.”
Tickets on sale now for the public day on Saturday 10 October, with 2-hour time slots available to book all day from 10:00-20:00.