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ARTSY: 1-54's Smart, Sharp Selection of Contemporary African Art Shines in New York

It’s possible that 1-54 New York has hit upon the formula for the perfectly sized art fair. At least, that’s what you’d think from talking to gallerists and collectors who attended the event’s preview day.

Across the three floors of its location on West 127th Street in Harlem, the fair’s 2023 event has 26 exhibitors, up from 24 last year. As interest in contemporary African art grows, 1-54’s geographic focus is seeming to pay off, with a collegial atmosphere between galleries, and collectors lingering for long conversations (sometimes in French, mostly in English). On opening day, it made for a sharp, concise selection of art, allowing visitors to fully engage with each booth.

New York’s Eric Firestone Gallery is showing a solo booth of ceramic works by Sana Musasama, an African American artist who has been working since the 1970s, drawing inspiration from her activist work with international communities of women. On the first day, four works had been sold to “significant private collectors,” the gallery’s director said, including a large standing sculpture from the artist’s “Maple Tree Series” (1979–83), as well as smaller works that dot the booth’s walls.

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