The contemporary African art fair 1-54 has announced its first foray into the Asian market with a series of selling exhibitions at Christie's Hong Kong. 1-54 Presents, a programme launched by the fair at its New York edition in May, will open alongside Art Basel Hong Kong in March next year.
During Frieze London this month, the fair staged its second edition of 1-54 Presents with the exhibition Transatlantic Connections: Caribbean Narratives in Contemporary Art, curated by Caryl Ivrisse Crochemar. Held at Christie's London headquarters, it included work by artist such as Sonia Boyce, Zak Ové, Alberta Whittle and Anina Major. The presentation attracted interest from Christie's clients, however the majority of collectors were from the fair, a spokesperson says. 1-54 is yet to announce the programme for its Hong Kong edition, but as with previous editions it will “partner with galleries who have been part of the fair in the past years and whose artists have seen their careers grow“, a spokesperson told The Art Newspaper.
Crucially, the venture gives the fair an opportunity to test the market by collaborating with a number of galleries. “Our objective is to expand our reach and introduce the fair to new markets,“ the spokesperson adds. “We are keen on developing projects in untapped regions, particularly in Asia.“ Indeed, Hong Kong has been the site of much secondary market activity for the African art market. Earlier this month, Julie Mehretu set the auction record for an African-born artist at Sotheby's Hong Kong with the $9.32m sale of her Untitled (2001). In 2021, Amoako Boafo's Hands Up (2018) broke a record for the artist at Christie's Hong Kong when it sold for $3.42m.
However, there have been recent signs that the Hong Kong market may be experiencing a cool down, including a disappointing auction of the highly anticipated Long Museum collection at Sotheby's this month and a decline in China's macroeconomic health, which sent ripples through the country's commercial galleries.
Despite this, 1-54 organisers say they have seen “a recent increase in interest from galleries based in Asia wanting to participate in the fair, as well as a growing number of collectors from that region attending the fair“. If all goes well, 1-54 hopes to launch a fully fledged fair in Hong Kong—most likely in Christie's new headquarters in the city's central business district—in 2025, the fair's founder Touria El Glaoui told South China Morning Post. Launched in 2013, 1-54 remains the only international art fair dedicated to work by African and diasporic artists.