In conversation with 1-54, Meryem Sebti, Editor in Chief of Diptyk magazine, discusses the evolution of contemporary African art throughout the years.
Can you please tell us about the birth of Diptyk and how you got involved with it?
MS: In 2008, Hicham Daoudi (Director of CMOOA and Comptoir des Mines Galerie) asked me to work on a magazine project, he believed it was the right moment to support a renewal of the contemporary art scene. Together with Yasmina Bouzid (independant curator), we started to work for several months on this project, thinking about the structure, periodicity and editorial lead that the magazine should take. We published the first issue of Diptyk in June 2009, questioning the existence and status of contemporary art in the Arab world.
Diptyk is one of the most known African art magazines on contemporary art from Africa and the Middle East. What are the main challenges faced by art publications from the continent?
I think the main challenge remains to build an audience in a country where reading in French is not obvious and buying high-priced magazines is not a widespread practice. The second challenge is the funding. Unfortunately, as we cannot depend on the volume of sales, we need to rely on advertising space, but the tricky part of working with advertisers is managing to keep the magazine’s freedom of speech.
In your opinion, today what’s the role of magazines in contemporary art?
Art magazines in our countries have the responsibility to push the art world out of anonymity and give visibility to artists. Our goal is not only to publicize and promote contemporary Arab and African art, but also to document in real time the recent and endogenous history of this world. We personally aim to build lasting ties between artists from countries in the southern hemisphere and those from the diaspora.
The first issue has been published in 2009, almost 10 years ago. Have you seen a change in African art since then and in the dialogues around it?
Of course there has been a huge evolution since 2009, especially since European institutions, like Fondation Cartier, Louis Vuitton, etc. and African art fairs like 1-54 have dedicated important exhibitions to African artists. They brought to light a range of artists that keeps on growing. I think the most significant change is the recently acquired fluidity in the art world. This fluidity allows a ‘continuum’ between arts from the Western world and the Afro-Arab world that can be seen, for instance, when a project born in Dakar is embodied in the Venice Biennale.
What do you think will be the impact of the arrival of 1-54 in Marrakech for the Moroccan and African art scene?
It certainly was 1-54’s vocation to have a base in Africa on the long run. It’s a commercial risk to settle on the continent, but Marrakech definitely is the ideal place to limit this risk. This new edition will help the contemporary African art scene to not get uprooted again, showing the reality of the art market within African ground. It’s also a chance to introduce more African and Moroccan collectors in the international art market, as there cannot be a sustainable place for Africa in the commercial art world, if African collectors are not involved.