“This third edition of 1:54 has been in the works since our first edition in London, and we look forward to continuing to expand and support our network of galleries, artists, collectors and partners with this new fair in Marrakech” , says 1:54 Touria El Glaoui, Founding Director. “It has been an important goal of 1:54 to host an edition on the African continent, and we could not think of a better place than Morocco to host this inaugural edition outside of London and New York.”

Last weekend, 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair had a homecoming as its inaugural Marrakech edition took place at city’s grand La Mamounia Hotel. 1:54 has long silenced its initial critics and sceptics since its London debut in 2013, with only 17 exhibitors, Today, there are successful iterations in New York, and for 2018, Marrakech meaning the fair now takes place across three continents. It comes as no surprise that 1:54 would debut an iteration on the continent as Founding Director, Touria El Glaoui was born and raised in Morocco, although she has lived and worked in London for over a decade which also made sense for the new fair to lay its foundations in London, one of the main global art centres, and occurring during Frieze Week.

The fair’s foundation is centred on promoting contemporary art from a diverse set of African perspectives and welcomes leading galleries from around the world. One of the strengths of 1:54 is its rigorous and ambitious public programme (events, talks, site-specific exhibitions), and for Marrakech, this was in partnership with institutions including Musée d’Art Contemporain Africain Al Madeen (MACAAL), Musée Yves Saint-Laurent Marrakech, Fondation Montresso, BCK Creative Art Space, Jardin des Arts de Marrakech and others.

Participating Galleries included Marrakech’s VOICE gallery, showing Sara Ouhaddou and Eric van Hove; Lagos’s Art Twenty One with Olu Amoda and Namasa Luba; London’s Tiwani Contemporary with a five-artist booth of Virginia Chihota, Délio Jasse, Walid Layadi-Marfouk, Thierry Oussou and Dawit L. Petros and Paris mega African gallerist, Magnin-A with Joël Andrianomearisoa, Nathalie Boutté, Kiripi Katembo, Houston Maludi, JP Mika and Amadou Sanogo.

Outside of the fair, at MACAAL, visitors were able to experience Africa Is No Island, a showcase of 40 emerging and established photographers working on the continent and in the wider diaspora. The exhibition was curated by Afrique in Visu, an Afrocentric photography platform. Whilst public sculptures by Mahi Binebine, Abderrahim Yamou, Fatiha Zemmouri, Hassan Darsi, Yasmina Alaoui, Hicham Benohoud, Mohamed Melehi and other were on view at Jardin des Arts de Marrakech.

The initial premise for 1:54 Marrakech was that it would coincide with the cancelled Marrakech Biennale, both presenting the city’s dynamic art scene, not to mention the historic and geographic position the country holds as a link between Africa, Europe and the Middle East. In response to the cancellation of the 7th Marrakech Biennale, a group of local artists initiated creating an “imaginary catalogue” for the defunct seventh biennale, acting as a kind of melting pot where a mix of artistic proposals and reflective texts on the biennale merge. With this new edition, there is no doubt 1:54 will broaden its reach, whilst further diversifying its portfolio of artists, exhibitors, galleries and collectors of African Modern and Contemporary Art.

Featured image: Tiwani Contemporary, Dawit.L.Petros, Untitled (Prologue), 2016