Saturday 16 August 2014

Contemporary African Art Fair expands scope in second edition

By Tajudeen Sowole

When art dealers, artists and collectors as well as other enthusiasts converge for the second edition of ‘1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair’ holding at the East and West Wings of Somerset Housein, London, U.K. from October 16 -19, 2014, about 30 galleries from nearly nine countries will expand the scope of appreciation of African art.

Last year, ‘1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair’ made its debut with less number of participants. Perhaps, it's too early in a second edition to score the yearly gathering, but the organisers, in a press statement describes it as "Europe’s leading international fair dedicated to contemporary African art."

An installation from 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair
Strategically holding during the popular and well established Frieze Week, the organisers hope to tap from the increasing popularity of contemporary African art and "present a rare opportunity to explore the rapidly emerging African art market in an environment supported by some of the most influential people and organisations in the art world."

Like most fairs, the content is as diverse as including painting, sculpture, photography and installation art. Enhancing the presentation of contents at the fair is the input of RA Projects, an award-winning architecture and design studio established in 2009 by architect Rashid Ali. The studio was chosen for its impressive credits, which include being  recognised for building projects as well as research activities. The studio was shortlisted for the prestigious Young Architect of the Year Award in 2008 and 2011.
 Some of the of participating galleries include Art21 and Centre for 0ontemporary Art (Lagos), Whatiftheworld (Cape Town), SMAC Art Gallery (Cape Town), Afronova (Johannesburg), Knight Webb Gallery Purdy Hicks Gallery (London), Selma Feriani Gallery (London), Primo Marella Gallery (Milan), Taymour Grahne (New York), Galerie Anne de Villepoix (Paris), (S)ITOR/Sitor Senghor (Paris) and Voice Gallery (Marrakech).

Touria El Glaoui, the founder of 1:54 Contemporary recalls how the debut edition was encouraging. "The response to 1:54 has been incredible and it gives me great pleasure to increase the magnitude of the fair this year."

She hopes that with continued support from individuals and organisations, the 2014 edition "is set to be even more influential in encouraging the growth of contemporary African art in the international market place." She argues that the fair offers visitors the opportunity "to experience and engage with contemporary art by both established African artists and with the rising talent from across the continent and the Diaspora."

El Glaoui, disclosed that 1:54 of 2014 will expand, featuring artists,  "each of the highest calibre." She adds: "we aim to act as a catalyst for generating momentum in this exciting emerging market.”

The educational programme of 1:54 will be accompanied by what the organisers describe as "a critical conversations series." It will be curated by Koyo Kouoh, Director, Raw Material Company, Dakar, Senegal, "The extensive programme will once again aim to stimulate discussion and debate with some of the art world’s most inspirational thinkers." Features of the programme include lectures, artist talks, film screenings and panel discussions presented by international curators, artists and leading experts in the field.

“The discussion section include "the current trajectory of contemporary African art production and practice in a global context, and explore modes of existing, retrospective and theoretical artistic practice".

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