The contemporary African art fair 1-54 made its African debut in Marrakech, Morocco, in the Grand Salon of the ritzy La Mamounia, one of Winston Churchill’s favorite hotels. Held over the weekend, 1-54 welcomed 4,000 visitors to view the offerings of 17 international galleries, which exhibited more than 60 contemporary artists from across Africa and its diaspora. Sales were strong, but with the exception of a few rising stars, prices generally ranged from $1,000–20,000—still lower than other markets. That dynamic has many wondering what the fertile African art scene still needs to do in order for the market to fully blossom.

The fair was heaving with international collectors while high-profile museum directors and curators made the trip to Marrakech. The director of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, Glenn Lowry, and the Tate’s Zoe Whitley, who co-curated “Soul of a Nation” with Mark Godfrey, were spotted roaming the booths. The fair also reported attendance from directors and curators from The Smithsonian, Zeitz MOCAA and Centre Pompidou.

 The past 10 years has seen a growing market interest in contemporary African art. Many blue-chip galleries now represent African artists, and initiatives like 1-54—which launched in London in 2013 and crossed the pond to New York in 2015—are drawing in international collectors in droves. Marrakech is traditionally a link between Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. French is most Moroccans’ second tongue, so the location lured numerous Francophone exhibitors and collectors not guaranteed to appear in the New York edition of the fair in the spring or in the London iteration in the fall. Read more