One year after the successful debut of 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair in New York, the organisers return to Pioneer Works in Red Hook, Brooklyn with a number of engaging initiatives and collaborations focused on promoting African art and its related practices. This 2016 edition will showcase seventeen galleries from nine countries with an array of works by over sixty selected artists practicing in different artistic mediums. The selected artists come from the following twenty seven countries: Angola, Belgium, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, France, Gabon, Ghana, Italy, Kenya, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Madagascar, Malawi, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Togo, Tunisia, United Kingdom, USA and Zimbabwe.

With a zoomed focus on Nigerian artists represented at the fair this year, ruby oyinyechi amanze and Otobong Nkanga are two of the returning artists from last year, while Uche Okpa Iroha, Babatunde Olatunji, Adeniyi Olagunju are showing for the first time at 1-54 New York. They are represented by TAFETA and In Situ/Fabienne Leclerc galleries respectively.

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Babajide Olatunji, Tribal Mark Series III #6, 2016, Charcoal and pastel on paper, 77 x 120 cm / 30.32 x 47.24 in, Courtesy of TAFETA

Some other artists who enjoyed critical appraisals in the debut edition are back for the second run. Here is a select list of renowned artists in Africa and the Diaspora showing: Derrick  Adams  (USA),  Joel  Andrianomearisoa  (Madagascar),  Uche Okpa Iroha (Nigeria), Sammy  Baloji  (DRC),  Ibrahim Mahama (Ghana), Edson  Chagas (Angola),  Ayana  V.  Jackson (USA), William Kentridge (South Africa), Theo Eshetu (UK), Aida Muluneh (Ethiopia), Omar Ba (Senegal),  and Billie Zangewa (South Africa).  See 2016 1-54 NY for a complete list of all the selected artists and exhibitors.

An interesting collaboration is happening at the fair this year. 1-54 has collaborated with Dakar Biennale  – Dak’Art- Biennale de l’Art African contemporain – for a special project titled TRANSMISSIONS, a simultaneous screening of happenings at both events. “In a bid to celebrate the concurrence of the biennale’s opening on the same week of the art fair, there will be a daily screening of highlights from the Dakar Biennale in a dedicated projection room at Pioneer Works. On the other side, people at Dak’Art can also watch highlights of the 1:54 Contemporary African Art fair at a designated space in the biennale.”

The enthusiasm of the coming fair is revealed in a statement made by the founder, Touria El Glaoui: “We are thrilled to be back at Pioneer Works for the second New York edition of 1:54 this year. The energy, interest, and overall success of the inaugural US fair in 2015 has lead us to return this May in hopes of broadening our reach and expanding the art world’s knowledge of Africa and the ever- evolving African art market.”  The art fair opens on Friday May 6, 2016 from 12 – 8pm (daily) and runs till Sunday May 8, 2016. The private opening and press viewing is scheduled for Thursday May 5, 2016.

Not only will there be a space to please your visual senses, the fair will cater for lovers of art discussions and education in a program curated by Koyo Kouoh. Kouoh is the founding artistic director of RAW Material Company in Dakar and the Curator of the 37th edition of EVA international – Ireland’s Biennial. The series popularly known as 1-54 FORUM will include lectures, film screenings and panel debates from leading international curators, artists and art experts.

In addition to FORUM, 1:54 will host 1:54 PERFORMS, a new 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. This platform of the fair will center around two original performances. Other special projects and events include: 1:54 Bookstore focusing on specialised publications at Pioneer Books, presentation and book signing with artist Mickalene Thomas for her latest publication, Muse: Mickalene Thomas Photographs (Aperture, 2015), the 1:54 Lounge designed by Stephen Burks with a site-specific lounge installation, and a pop-up restaurant by Senegalese Chef, Restaurateur, and Author, Pierre Thiam, in the garden of Pioneer Works throughout the duration of the art fair.

Aida Muluneh

Aida Muluneh, The World is 9 (The Morning Bride), 2016. Digital Photograph Printed on Sunset Hot Press Rag 310 GSM 80 x 80 cm. Edition of 7

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Stephen-Burls-Manmade Material Composition Lounge, 2016. Various material compositions, Dedon Ahnda lounge chairs and recycled carpets. Size variable. Courtesy Dedon, Inc., Stephen Burks Man Made & Mariane Ibrahim Gallery

See below a line-up of activities for the FORUM this year.

Friday, May 6 2016 

1:00 – 1:25 PM
Welcome & Opening Remarks by Koyo Kouoh

1:30 – 2:30 PM

Beyond Cultural Polarities: Africa’s Creative ‘Repats’

As Africa’s international creative class becomes more visible on the continent – particularly in major metropolises like Dakar, Lagos, Addis Ababa, Nairobi, Luanda and Johannesburg – many diaspora Africans are choosing to return to the continent. Many of these returnees, known as ‘repats’, are highly educated and skilled, and while they have shown that they can seize new opportunities and transfer skills to Africa’s nascent creative industries, they face plenty of challenges. This panel frames the concept of African repatriation through the insight of three entrepreneurs: Andrew Dosunmu (filmmaker based in Nigeria); Nina Keïta (entrepreneur based in Côte d’Ivoire); and Elinyisia Mosha (journalist based in Tanzania). This forum will be moderated by Claude Grunitzky (Founder and Editor-in-Chief of TRUE Africa).

3:00 – 4:00 PM

Media Platforms for the Promotion of the Arts, Visual Cultures, and Social Experiences of and about Africa and the Diaspora
This panel explores the new wave of omnibus digital content providers focused on African and African diaspora contemporary cultures and social activities. The discussants are Claude Grunitzky(Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of TRUE Africa) and Abiola Oke (CEO of okayafrica)Moderated by Ugochukwu-Smooth C. Nzewi (Curator of African Art at the Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College).

4:30 – 5:30 PM

The Politics and Privilege of Play: Dexter Wimberly (Independent Curator) in conversation with ruby onyinyechi amanze (Artist)

On navigating the liminal space between fantasy and reality, ruby onyinyechi amanze’s drawings envision speculative narratives of self-discovery, supernatural existence and spatio-temporal escapism to evoke ideas around cultural hybridity, belonging and displacement. amanze’s works on paper are influenced by textile design, photography, printmaking and architecture.

6:00 – 7:00 PM

Reframing Beauty: Deborah Willis (University Professor Chair, Department of Photography & Imaging, New York University – Tisch School of the Arts) in conversation with Omar Victor Diop (Artist)
Omar Victor Diop is an artist and photographer interested in exploring the philosophical reference of beauty as well as the interplay between fact and fiction, identity and history. For this conversation, Prof. Deborah Willis combines a historical, contemporary, and theoretical approach to how Diop’s images are constructed through an African Diasporic history and global references to beauty, media, advertising, fashion, and popular culture. Discussion will pivot around Diop’s references to iconic images, performance and photography, and the extendable power of images.

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1:54 Forum 2015 / Image ©KatrinaSorrentino

Saturday, May 7, 2016

2:00 – 3:00 PM

Emerging Social Entrepreneurs and Cultural Brokers

This panel explores the changing dynamics and growing interest in contemporary art and cultures of Africa and African diaspora. It spotlights an upcoming generation of African social entrepreneurs who are seizing the opportunity to mobilize new platforms of discussion. Speakers are Sharon Obuobi, (Founder of Art Accra: West African Contemporary Art Fair); Shimite Obialor (Lawyer and Founder of the digital platform Anoko) and Ifeanyi Awachie (Curator of Africa Salon: Yale University’s contemporary African arts and culture festival). This forum will be moderated by Ugochukwu-Smooth C. Nzewi.

3:30 – 4:30 PM

Museums and Contemporary African Art

The panel explores practices in collecting, curating, and the display of contemporary art by African artists in American museums with discussants Karen Milbourne (Curator at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art); Kevin Dumouchelle (Associate Curator of Arts of Africa and the Pacific Islands at the Brooklyn Museum); and Yesomi Umolu (Curator of Exhibitions at University of Chicago’s Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts). This forum is also moderated by Ugochukwu-Smooth C. Nzewi.

5:00 – 6:00 PM

Materiality, Storytelling, and Grand Narratives in Contemporary African Art: Dexter Wimberly (Independent Curator) in conversation with Billie Zangewa (Artist)


Billie Zangewa is an internationally celebrated Johannesburg based Malawian artist who works with fabrics, mostly silk, to create intricate tapestries. By way of her rich, elaborate silk ‘paintings’, Zangewa celebrates black femininity, self-empowerment and the importance of storytelling.

6:30 – 7:30 PM

Adrienne Edwards (Curator at Performa and Curator-at-Large at the Walker Art Center) in conversation with Dave McKenzie (Artist)
McKenzie is a conceptual artist working in performance, photography, and video. McKenzie has been invited by Adrienne Edwards to compose a special text-based performance for 1:54, which will be performed at intervals throughout the fair. Titled This ship would set sail, even anchored as it was (2016–), the project takes the centennial anniversary of Pan-African leader Marcus Garvey’s arrival in New York City in 1916 as its point of departure. This conversation between Edwards and McKenzie explores the depth of the project as an expression of the influence of printmaking on the artist’s approach to multi-disciplinary performance.

Top featured image and other images courtesy of 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair.