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Joy Labinjo, Untitled, 2017, Courtesy the artist and Tiwani Contemporary, London © The Artist.

1-54 London showcased contemporary African artworks of more than 130 artists and 43 galleries from 21 countries across Europe, Africa, the Middle East and North America. The exhibition was held at Somerset House earlier this month in London and welcomed 18,000 visitors including esteemed curators and public figures.

1-54 is the leading international art fair dedicated to contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora. Referencing the fifty-four countries that constitute the African continent, and with annual shows in London, New York and Marrakech, 1-54 is a dynamic platform that is engaged in contemporary dialogue and exchange.

“We are so proud of how far we have come since our first London fair in 2013. Following the launch of our inaugural Marrakech fair in February and our fourth New York edition in May, we have gone on to develop new audiences for contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora across three fairs and three different continents. The growth and popularity of the fair is a real testament to the shift away from Euro-centric art-historical narratives.”  Touria El Glaoui. Founding Director 1-54

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Installation view 1-54 Contemporary Art Fair, Somerset House, London ©BrittanyBuongiorno

After exhibiting earlier in the year in Marrakech and New York, October marked 1-54’s sixth consecutive edition at Somerset House, London. 1-54 London included 43 galleries from 21 countries across Europe, Africa, the Middle East and North America: Angola, Belgium, Côte d’Ivoire, Denmark, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Ghana, Italy, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Tunisia, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.

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Installation view 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair , Somerset House, London ©BrittanyBuongior

Listed amongst the 100 most powerful women in Africa by Forbes, Founding Director of 1-54 Touria El Glaoui commented,

“We are delighted to have had strong sales and visitor figures for our sixth edition in London – it has been incredible to see the growth in popularity of contemporary African art since we started 1-54 in 2013. We’re thrilled to be returning to La Mamounia for the second Marrakech edition of the fair in February 2019, and excited to be relocating to Industria in Manhattan’s West Village for our fifth anniversary edition in New York in May 2019.”

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Somerset House in London; Founding Director of 1-54 Touria El Glaoui speaks with Idris Alba; Ekow Eshun and Athi-Patra Ruga in discussion at the FORUM

With more than 130 artists, including 11 solo shows, Special Projects and 1-54 FORUM, the Fair welcomed 18,000 visitors, among them directors and curators affiliated with the most prestigious museums and institutions including the Tate, MoMA, Smithsonian and Guggenheim Museum.

South African galleries at 1-54 London were AFRONOVA GALLERY, SMAC and WHATIFTHEWORLD. Forming a part of the 1-54 London Special Projects, renowned South African artist Athi-Patra Ruga’s exhibition Of Gods, Rainbows and Omissions is his first major UK solo exhibition, showcasing new and celebrated works and immersing visitors in his vibrant world filled with powerful and striking characters. This show extends beyond the week of the fair to January 2019.

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Image courtesy Athi-Patra Ruga and WHATIFTHEWORLD, Night of the Long Knives I, 2013 (1)

Another special project is the Meditation Tree sculpture by one of the most significant figures in African and Arab Modernism – Ibrahim El-Salahi. Meditation Tree, reflects the artist’s ongoing works themed around the Haraz tree which is indigenous to Sudan and has peculiar and inspirational characteristics. Says El-Salahi:

“My style changes, but I keep working on one particular theme inspired by a tree, an acacia locally called the Haraz that grows on the banks of the Nile. During the rainy season the tree is leafless, and it blossoms with freshly budding green leaves when the weather turns dry and the river flows at its lowest towards the sea. Through all, the tree remains steadfast, silently watching over the passage of seasons and time.”

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Ibrahim El-Salahi, Meditation Tree, 2018, Courtesy Ibrahim El-Salahi and Vigo Gallery. The artist pictured with the sculpture in the Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court at Somerset House

Of the Haraz’s blooming El-Salahi says; “This is a definitive statement. Like saying ‘I am me! I am an individual! I do not follow what everyone is doing! When everyone is going to be green, let them be green. I am not!’ It’s individuality. I love that very much.”

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