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Touria El Glaoui, Founder of 1-54 Art Fair: Revolutionizing the Global Art Scene

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This week, one of the largest Art Fairs in the world is taking place in New York; 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair. However, little is known about the origin of this event and the Moroccan founder, Touria El Glaoui. Touria has made it her life’s work to pave the way for African artists. Her efforts have created a global platform that celebrates the creativity and innovation of African artists.

She has propelled African artists in their careers hence making it easier for them to work with international galleries. This article will explore Touria El Glaoui’s journey to creating 154- New York art fair. Additionally, It will also highlight two merging artists to watch out for during this year’s event.

Portrait of Touria El Glaoui, 2021. Photo by Jim Winslet.
Image Courtesy of 1-54.

Touria El Glaoui was born in Casablanca in 1974, to a well-known painter. Her father, Hassan El Glaoui was a Morrocan figurative painter, and her mother, a former Givenchy model. She is also the granddaughter of Thami El Glaoui, the Pasha of the Berber ethnic group in Marrakech. One can only imagine the vibrant upbringing she had, as her home buzzed with political and artistic revolution in Marrakech. She went to school in Canada and pursued studies in strategic management and international affairs in New York. Initially, she worked at Salomon Smith Barney as a wealth management advisor, and subsequently, she joined Cisco Systems in London. She was always interested in Middle Eastern and African art.

Event poster. Image courtesy of 1-54 Instagram.

In 2013, Touria made a bold move by quitting her job to embark on her entrepreneurial journey. She established the 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair in 2013 as the first-ever contemporary African art fair internationally. Since its 2013 debut in London’s Somerset House, the fair has expanded to New York and Marrakesh, gaining global attention. 1-54, as expected became a major driving force in the African market. It raised awareness and market interest in contemporary African art. The journey must have not been easy, considering that in 2013, the only type of African art known through the global lens was classical African art.

El Glaoui tells ANA, “As with every edition, we’re hoping that all our galleries receive a steady flow of visitors, sales and have a wonderful experience. With over half of participating galleries making their 1-54 New York debuts this weekend, we’re also keen to facilitate important new connections and relationships for them. 

For the 2023 edition of 1-54 New York, we’ve focused on expanding what constitutes contemporary African art and actively placed an emphasis on diaspora. As such, we’re proud to be presenting our first-ever pop-up exhibition of contemporary Caribbean artists at High Line Nine titled ‘Sparkling Islands, Another Postcard of the Caribbean‘ “.

El Glaoui created a space for African and diasporic artists to receive the recognition they deserve. These artists now grace prestigious galleries, participate in major international art fairs, and feature in renowned museums and events like the Venice Biennale. The fair’s title, representing the 54 countries on the African continent, underscores its educational mission to exhibit diverse art practices. From installation-based to painting, sculpture, conceptual, performance, and digital art, 1-54 showcases the wide range of talent from the motherland.

Three sequences , Emma Odumade. Charcoal, Graphite, Acrylic, Ink, Black tea, and Old photos on Canvas, 2021. One of the emerging artists showcasing at the 1-54 NY art fair.
Image courtesy of Instagram

The fair features an expansive range of themes that contemporary African artists subject to their own experiences. Additionally, the fair offers a glimpse into these African cultures including ideas of ritual, rites of passage, perceptions of beauty, and fashion.

The 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair will be open to the public from May 19 to 21 at the Malt House in West Harlem. For those unable to attend in person, the artworks and galleries can be explored online via Touria El Glaoui encourages art enthusiasts, collectors, and curious visitors to immerse themselves in this immersive experience, discovering the next generation of African artists who are reshaping the art world.

Emma Odumade and Delali Ayivi are two emerging talents whose work captivates with its powerful narratives. For the first time, they will showcase their work at the fair. Odumade’s hyper realistic drawings challenge notions of identity, beauty, and power. On the other hand, Ayivi’s photography diversifies representations of black communities, particularly in the realm of fashion. Their artistic journeys and inspirations reveal the profound impact of personal stories and cultural heritage.

We marvel at Tourias work and dedication to supporting the African art industry. Her efforts have paved the way for emerging artists and made contemporary African artists and art recognized as potential areas for investment. Touria El Glaoui’s dedication and vision have propelled African contemporary art to the forefront of the global art scene. Through 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, she continues to inspire,


Rose Mwikali Musyoki is a creative writer from Nairobi, Kenya. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Business and Finance from the University of Embu, Kenya, and is the founder of Bloom Inc, an art startup in Kenya. Currently, she works as a writer for Art News Africa.

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