Another frequent sentiment expressed across the fair was the desire for African artists to keep a foot in their home continent while gaining access to wider audiences overseas. “Artists want to keep their ground in Africa but show their work abroad,” said Mariane Ibrahim, whose standout booth
had a constant stream of excited collectors throughout opening day. “This is the case with Zohra Opoku
; she has a strong ground in Ghana.” Opoku’s graceful self-portraits, printed on fabric, threaded together, and hung from the ceiling of Ibrahim’s booth, were completed while the artist was at a residency at Kala Art Institute in Berkeley, California. One of the works was bought right in front of me at 1:54, with the collector considering coming back for the second.
Ibrahim’s gallery, which works with artists from across the African Diaspora, and which was recently featured as part of the Armory’s Focus section, is based in Seattle. “The market there is very provincial,” she said of her gallery’s home city, “but there are really high-end collectors from the big companies like Amazon, Microsoft, and Boeing. They collect, but they collect artists that have been validated already. So not necessarily anything too avant-garde. A fair like 1:54 is where I can really have some fun.” Alongside Opoku’s hangings in the booth are the gorgeous, theatrical photos of Fabrice Monteiro
and Maïmouna Guerresi
, as well as a beautiful painting by
Ibrahim said she was pleased with the increased momentum and visibility of this year’s fair, even after last year’s successful inaugural edition in New York. “The second year is really interesting,” she said. “I am fascinated to see the number of collectors here who are extremely well-known. Some are coming for this second edition who didn’t come for the first.” Erica Fenaroli at the Italian gallery A Palazzo, which has been involved with the London and New York editions of the fair since its launch, agrees: “Everyone comes here,” she told me. “All the curators—MoMA, Brooklyn Museum, even people from overseas.”