In Focus | Art & Commerce

In July 2012, I met 1:54 founder Touria El Glaoui where she first spoke about her efforts to launch the upcoming London art fair focused on contemporary art from Africa. The fair was only an idea; however Somerset House was open to host the event and architect David Adjaye was on board. Perhaps the later being a good omen, as Adjaye designed the first installation for Frieze which has since gone on to become one of the top destinations in a global art market with 180+ fairs held annually.

From that early conversation, the idea to interview her along with art practitioners – artists, curators, writers and educators based on the continent and in the Diaspora took seed. Who better to speak on the terrain of contemporary art practice and commerce than individuals actively operating within the field. Through their insights, I hoped we’d begin to map the contours and dynamics of the field.


IN FOCUS | art and commerce


As the fair sought to present galleries & artists based on and off the continent, it seemed natural to ask what criteria would be used in the selection process. The contemporary art part seemed obvious, but what about the Africa part. It is not an easy question to answer.

Listening carefully to phrases such as “an African perspective”, or “contemporary art from Africa” verses “contemporary African art” the nuances start to become significant. In these dialectics the evidence of taxonomies being redrawn, which is positive and something that became more transparent reading and re-reading the thoughts of our commentary contributors.

Over the course of three chapters, the In Focus series, ‘ Art and Commerce’ will look at the universal issues shared by artists, for instance visibility, community and patronage. How location does or does not factor into artistic practice and discourse, as well as market supply and demand.

In-depth commentary comes from Kisito Assangni, Godfried Donkor, Christine Eyene, Yo-Yo Gonthier, Nicène Kossentini, Mischeck Masamvu, Aïda Muluneh, Victor Muteleksha , Dr. Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung, Jimmy Ogonga, Olu Oguibe, Michael Tsegaye and Rikki Wemega-Kwawu.


Read the interview with Touria El Glaoui, founder of 1:54 on the inaugural fair set to launch in London on October 16, 2013, that launched this In Focus series.



Kisito Assangni

Godfried Donkor

Christine Eyene. Photo | Antoine Tempé / Picturetank.

Yo-Yo Gonthier

Nicène Kossentini

Mischeck Masamvu

Aïda Muluneh

Victor Muteleksha

Dr. Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung

Jimmy Ogonga

Olu Oguibe

Michael Tsegaye

Rikki Wemega-Kwawu




The In Focus | art and commerce series has been co-edited by Stephanie Baptist and Missla Libsekal.




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