1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair closed its second New York edition on Sunday, May 8, 2016 amid strong sales and attendance. This edition welcomed over 6,500 visitors, including museum directors, curators, and collectors affiliated with over 20 museums and nonprofit institutions. Over 80% of participating galleries sold works on the preview day of the fair.
By the fair’s conclusion, multiple booths were either sold out or close to sold out.
1:54 FORUM returned to 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair once again and focused on a rising generation of cultural entrepreneurs and initiators. The discursive programme aimed at exploring convergences across artistic and cultural production, critical thinking and ideas through a series of engaging panel discussions and artist talks. Conversation flowed around the rise of digital platforms and new circuits of contemporary culture, spotlighting platforms Okayafrica and TRUE Africa, as well as more emergent models.
FORUM was curated by Koyo Kouoh (RAW Material Company in Dakar and Ireland’s EVA International 2016). At Kouoh’s invitation, Adrienne Edwards (Performa and Walker Art Center), Ugochukwu- Smooth C. Nzewi (Hood Museum of Art) and Dexter Wimberly (independent New York-based curator) joined this year's programme as collaborators and contributors.
Founder and Director of 1:54, Touria El Glaoui, commented: “We could not be more excited about the fair’s second U.S. edition at Pioneer Works. 1:54 welcomed a number of new galleries this year, who were able to initiate strong connections with an international mix of art collectors and museums. The fair saw strong sales, welcomed a dynamic mix of new programme partners, and saw a record-breaking visitation. Overall, we are ecstatic with the many successes of this edition and look forward to returning to New York in the spring 2017.”
1:54 PERFORMS, a performance section for this year's edition co-presented with Performa and curated by Adrienne Edwards (Curator at Performa and Curator-at-Large at the Walker Art Center) centered around a recently developed performance work by artist Dave McKenzie. McKenzie’s performance, This ship would set sail, even anchored as it was (2016), unfolded across two days in the 1:54 Lounge with McKenzie using an alphabet of prototyped sneakers to imprint text onto an unfurling scroll of paper.
Designed by Stephen Burks Man Made, the 1:54 Lounge featured designs from his Ahnda lounge seating collection for outdoor furniture manufacturer DEDON. Stephen Burks’ designs appeared alongside a new work by Zimbabwean artist Misheck Masamvu, presented by Goodman Gallery ahead of his forthcoming exhibition at the Johannesburg gallery, opening on May 11th. In partnership with the 12th Dakar Biennale, Transmissions screened a new film for each day of the fair, highlighting the artistic and cultural scene in Dakar alongside exclusive interviews with artists and curators. The project mapped out a cultural exchange between artistic activity at 1:54 in New York and the 12th Dakar Biennale in Senegal during its opening week.
Daily highlights of the fair were also transmitted to Dakar and will continue to be shown at the biennale for its duration. Amongst its inaugural Special Projects section in New York were book signings with artists Mickalene Thomas in partnership with Aperture – presenting her new monograph 'Muse: Mickalene Thomas Photographs' (2015), and Sue Williamson in partnership with Axis Gallery and Skira Editore – presenting 'Sue Williamson: Life and Work' (2015). On this occasion, Thomas was joined in conversation with Lesley A. Martin (Creative Director, Aperture), and Williamson with art historian Chika Okeke-Agulu. Held at Pioneer Books, 1:54’s Pop-up Bookstore featured specialized publications on contemporary African art, artist monographs, exhibition catalogues, and journals. At the Garden Café, a Senegalese-inspired menu was provided by chef Pierre Thiam, while Clocktower Radio curated a series on African music and culture that can be listened to online following the fair.