Touria El Glaoui, London, 2013. Photo: Chris Saunders

Interview with Touria El Glaoui

Founding Director of 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair

Tell us a little bit about the history of 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair.

Since a successful first edition in London seven years ago we have also established editions in New York and Marrakech. Last year we held our inaugural edition in Marrakech and the second iteration in the city is this upcoming weekend (21-24 February). Our next edition in New York will be a special fifth year anniversary edition with us expanding to a new space - Industria, Manhattan.

How do you, as fair founding director, ensure that the event stays contemporary and current in the fast-paced world that is the art market?

It was always clear to me how important it was for the fair to be adaptable and reflective of the art scenes around us. As such we see our structure as something malleable, ensuring that it allows us to be flexible and responsive to the needs of our galleries and artists, providing a space they want to be a part of. This is vital for our sustainability as a fair.

Is there something in this year's program that you’re particularly looking forward to?

For our upcoming fair in Marrakech, I am more than excited for the special projects and rich public programme that has been a result of numerous collaborations with art spaces across the city. Alongside the 18 galleries at La Mamounia, there are exhibitions at Musée Yves Saint Laurent Marrakech, MACAAL and Comptoir des Mines Galerie, just to name a few.
For our edition in New York (2-5 May), it will be held at Industria for the first time which is allowing us to present even more galleries in New York than ever before. There will be 24 galleries joining us, presenting the work of over 65 international artists.
We’re also already in the process of organising London (3 - 6 October), and have exciting plans!

What do the artworks being presented at this year's 1-54 Marrakech reveal about current trends and market?

I prefer not to look at artworks as being a part of a trend or not, I find this often over-arching approach discourages visitors from understanding the diversity of work on show. This results in channel-vision that does not recognise that a work is a consequence of an artist’s multifarious personal, social, economic and political experiences that cannot be placed within the parameters of a single theme or trend. The fair in Marrakech, like in London and New York, always aims to present a plethora of creative voices from Africa and its diasporas to dislodge homogenising narratives.

What advice do you have for collectors attending 1-54 Marrakech this year?
My advice to every collector is always the same, it so important that you buy the work you have a strong affinity for and that this purchase is viewed as the start of a relationship with the gallery and artist. I find this to be the most fulfilling and mutually-beneficial approach to collecting work. 

In addition to 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, what exhibition or event is on your must-see list?

Thinking about Marrakech, the 'must-see' on my list is a sound installation by Nigerian artist Emeka Ogboh titled LOS-RAK, at DADA. Ogboh combines works from his Lagos Soundscapes alongside sound compositions assembled through recordings of the Marrakech Medina. 

Touria El Glaoui, London, 2013. Photo: Chris Saunders

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