For its 5th edition in Marrakech, the 1-54 fair broadened its scope. With 27 participating galleries – 7 more than last year – and an additional venue at DaDa, the fair attracted a very international audience and recorded good sales, all in a warm and relaxed atmosphere.

Nestled in the heart of the breathtaking La Mamounia hotel is where 1-54 Marrakech takes place, annually since its inception in 2018. After launching the fair in London in 2013 and in New York in 2015, its founder Touria El Glaoui, born and raised in Morocco, desired a return to her roots and opened this edition in the heart of The Red City. However, this 5th edition marked a turning point with the opening of a second space, DaDa, situated opposite Jemaa el-Fna square, radically different from the first with its very raw and minimalist style.

This year featured a significantly greater number of Moroccan galleries and artists, with a pronounced emphasis on textile works, undoubtedly drawing from Morocco’s rich ancestral craftsmanship. An unmissable highlight was Galerie Christophe Person’s booth, showcasing a solo show by Ghizlane Sahli. This artist from Meknès collaborates with embroiderers to repurpose plastic water bottles, thereby exploring the transformation of materials. These three-dimensional alveoli, covered in silk threads, accumulate and unfold organically and randomly. This green series, resonating with nature, was in dialogue with another series, predominantly red, consisting of small formats centered on the theme of the menstrual cycle, a topic still considered taboo in some Moroccan communities.

Ghizlane Sahli at Galerie Christophe Person

Work by Ghizlane Sahli at Galerie Christophe Person’s booth. Photo by Pauline Loeb for artfairmag

Another standout was the stand of Galerie 38, which distinguished itself with a trio of works – a large mix-media piece by Abdoulaye Konaté, a dreamlike painting by Barthélémy Toguo, and at the center, a vase by the same artist – all offering a stunning array of blues.

I was charmed by the leather patchworks of the young artist Sheila Fuseini, based in Accra, who was showcased by The African Art Hub, an online gallery which was participated for the very first time to 1-54 Marrakech and that I had highlighted at the last London edition of the fair. 193 Gallery, true to its style, had painted the walls of their space, creating a delicate pink setting for the vibrant tapestries of the unconventional April Bey.

Galerie 38 1-54 Marrakech

Galerie 38’s booth at 1-54 Marrakech, featuring works by Abdoulaye Konaté and Barthélémy Toguo.

A change of scenery at DaDa, an exhibition space that celebrates, in the heart of the medina, the vibrant contemporary art scene in Morocco and more broadly in Africa. The venue offers a resolutely contemporary decor, providing a refreshing contrast to the opulence of La Mamounia. The seven galleries exhibiting there were showcasing a wide array of techniques, materials, and styles. At the first stand to the left upon entering, Berlin-based Katharina Maria Raab Gallery displayed, among others, four photographs by Moroccan artist Hicham Benohoud from his series The Hole. In this new series, Hicham presents members of a family emerging from holes within their living space. Created without any photomontage, Benohoud persuaded the residents to pierce the walls, ceilings, or floors of their homes to produce these family portraits that are both humorous and surreal.

Hicham Benohoud the HOLE - Katharina Maria Raab, Berlin

Hicham Benohoud’s series THE HOLE, in Katharina Maria Raab’s booth at 1-54 Marrakech.

Curator’s Booth Pick

Still at DaDa, Revie Projects Gallery showcased works by French artist Margaux Derhy, including two large figurative embroideries that immediately captivated me. Margaux draws inspiration from old family photos, taken before they left Morocco for France, which she then reinterprets through embroidery. She employs a community of 10 single women from the small village where her father originated, thereby providing them with financial independence. This extremely meticulous and time-consuming work – it would take about a year for one person to complete one of these embroideries – results in poignant pieces with shimmering colors and golden reflections. I was already familiar with Margaux’s canvases but not her embroideries… and what a discovery!

Revie Projects’ booth at 1-54 Marrakech

How Much Does It Cost?

I chose four very different works that represent well the eclecticism of the fair, particularly the textile works, which were predominant at this event. The first piece is a work by Abdoulaye Konaté, an artist I discovered at the last edition of AKAA in Paris, where Primo Marella Gallery presented him in a solo show. The gallery was offering this work for €60,000. I would have liked to come back with one of the four photographs by Hicham Benohoud displayed at the stand of Katharina Maria Raab Gallery, based in Berlin. To do that, I would have had to pay €5,000 pre-taxes. A very striking piece was the canvas by Yvanovitch Mbaya at the CDA Gallery stand. Painted with natural pigments, especially from coffee which emitted a comforting scent, this work was offered for €12,500. Finally, it was the artist Valérie Ohana who introduced me to her poetic mixed-media work with shimmering colors, on sale for €7,700.

Despite heavy rain and low temperatures, many visitors made the trip, and 1-54 Marrakech was overall a successful edition, both in terms of attendance and sales. With its expanding reach, the fair is launching a new venue in Hong Kong, coinciding with Art Basel. Stay tuned!

Sum it up, I'm in a rush!

  • When? | February 8-11, 2024
  • Where? | Marrakech, Morroco
  • Atmosphere | Variegated and elegant
  • Curator’s booth pick | Revie Projects
  • Featured Gallery Gem | Galerie Christophe Person
  • Spotlight Artist | Margaux Derhy
  • For Whom? | Contemporary African art lovers

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