Solution to the Future of African Art

Man’s Cloth by El Anatsui (1998 – 2001), on display at the British Museum.

African art presents some of the most fascinating and attractive works. However, the growth of the art industry in Africa has been fluctuating for some time now. Up to 28 August, Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris is showing a selection of the biggest collection of African art in the world, put together by the Frenchman, Jean Pigozzi. The show is an expression of how African art is still of interest but for some reasons refuse to grow (within and outside the African continent). This lack of growth can be clearly attributed to the lack of institutional support for African art. Many known mega galleries and museums have no defined African art sections. This has limited the knowledge of African arts and as well diminishing its growth.

Pricing and Sales

An artwork with an African mask theme using industrial rubbish made by Romuald Hazoume sold for £7,000. The pricing and sales of other work by the same artist is on the positive not only because masks by him are being used to publicize the Foundation Vuitton exhibition but also because Romauld Hazoume is being presented in other western art exhibitions. The question herein is whether the success of Africa art is fully dependent on the ability of producers to create western partnerships and exhibit in western spaces. Ghanaian born and Nigerian based El Anatsui sold an exceptional large hanging of western desire for 600,000 GBP. This was made possible due to the ability of the artist to create his own foreign market and has developed his brand to be admired by the West. Within Africa, there has been a great sale such as South Africa’s Irma Stern sunflower art which sold for 340,000 GBP, and such sale was made possible because the artist as an individual had worked towards building his own market. What happens to other great artists in Africa who lack the skill set and platform to build such market networks? Will we keep selling amazing works at affordable and underrated prices?

Way Forward

At this point, it is very essential to institutionalize African art to help expand its reach and fineness of work. A massive African auction show and continental gallery centers in African cities will also help develop the sector and give enormous opportunities to existing artists while artist also works towards building their own market in the west.

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