Art fairs

1:54 art fair to launch in Marrakech next February

Founding director has been searching for an African venue since she first established the event in London five years ago


The biannual art fair 1:54, which takes its name from the 54 countries that make up the African continent, is launching its first African edition in Marrakech in February 2018. The expansion follows successful fairs in London and New York. 

The Moroccan-born and raised founding director of the fair, Touria el Glaoui, says she has been thinking about opening in Africa since she first established the event in London in 2013. El Glaoui settled on Morocco as it has “one of the most dynamic art scenes on the continent”, crowned by the Biennale de Marrakech, which she hopes will overlap with the fair (23-25 February; dates for the biennial have not yet been confirmed).

Security and facilities for VIP collectors were also concerns, El Glaoui says, so holding the fair at the five-star La Mamounia hotel was a natural fit. “As with Somerset House in London or Pioneer Works in New York, we are continuing in the spirit of using significant architectural spaces,” she says.

The first African edition will be small, with around 15 galleries. “Because of space, the selection will be more specific,” El Glaoui says, adding that the programme will be “very sensitive” to the local audience. “We want north African and Moroccan galleries to feel included in the project,” she says.

El Glaoui says she has been given the green light to install large-scale sculptures in the grand gardens of the hotel–a format that has found favour with collectors in the past. Zak Ové’s impressive site-specific courtyard installation quickly found a buyer at the London fair last October, when Hussam Otaibi, a managing partner of the investment group Floreat, which sponsors 1:54, snapped up one of the three editions for £300,000.