Aspire – Moving into the African Art Market

23 Oct 2019

Aspire has a firm and stated commitment to expanding its expertise and its reach beyond South Africa’s borders into the rest of Africa. This is not only because we wish to see the local art market grow and diversify into different countries, but also because we feel that art from the rest of the continent could be making a contribution to how the South African market is made up and what serious collectors should be paying attention to.

It’s often remarked upon that Africa is the ‘last frontier’ art market, with the International Monetary Fund pointing out that six of the ten fastest-growing global economies are in Africa. ArtPrice and other sources also point out that there has been a spike in presence and museum shows for modern and contemporary African artists in the European and US markets. And yet, internal to the African continent itself, there remains a lingering reputation that the African market represents risky business. Organic growth is slow, with not many new African collectors buying work in their domestic markets. Coupled with this is the long-standing tendency for African collectors to buy directly from artists.

Another stumbling block to growth in African markets across the continent, apart from African work moving to major US and European markets to be bought by collectors there, is the tendency to consider African Art as one phenomenon or market – this in a continent with 54 countries and over a billion people.

More positively, African markets are demonstrating exciting growth trajectories elsewhere, with a rise in museums, new and prestigious art schools, a growing number of high net worth individuals and rapid urbanisation. Global attention is also growing, with the aforentioned rise in dedicated museum shows for African art happening alongside a jump in the number of Art Fairs showcasing art from the continent.

In our first foray into presenting some dedicated auction lots from the rest of the African continent, we have focused on presenting work from Nigeria.The global market for Nigerian art was long dominated by the likes of Ben Enwonwu, who developed in the early twentieth century, much like many black South African modernists, a distinctive response to European modernist influences. Since then, Nigerian art styles have diversified considerably, with both Igbo and Yoruba traditions feeding into new stylistic innovations.

Aspire is proud to present a group of auction lots from Nigeria, and one from Ghana, as we embark on expanding and diversifying our market approach and collector base.

James Sey

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