Ibrahim Bamidele.

The Scribe. 2022

Africa is a continent with diverse countries, different ethnic groups, and many artistic styles. Currently, there is a huge discourse around art in/from the African continent thereby having a bearing on the market for modern and contemporary African art. African art is difficult to define by art historians, art directors and curators. Fifty four countries occupy the continent, each with its own unique culture, traditions and social structures. Considering also the effects of colonialism, which produced a large community of individuals of African descent in the diaspora, it is strikingly clear that attempting to define African art with one idea not only shouldn’t be attempted, but is clearly impossible. (Source: Contemporary African Art)


Undeniably, demand for African art is constantly rising and taking root, commemorating a newly found global prominence and recording an exponential rise that is predicted to continually escalate in 2023 and beyond. This surge of interest in African art is attributable to multiple factors, such as advances in socio-cultural understanding, the steady rise in the establishment of  museums and art galleries on the continent and the growing representation of African art in international fairs, exhibitions and biennials. alongside an increase in purchasing power  of Africans, who have the income to buy art; all of which is contributing to the paradigm shift in market value of African art.

(Source: The Exchange Africa).


According to Artsy.net, “the spike in appetite for works by African artists has increased profit margins and also casts a spotlight on the plethora of creativity concealed within the continent.”  In 2020, the global pandemic might have threatened this optimism and momentum, but most galleries and international art fairs shifted sales online on a short notice and collectors were in a good frame of mind and position to purchase art online. Art Fairs have been a positive reflection on the art market, allowing artists and galleries to grow while expanding their network. The bulk of the primary and secondary  market is outside the African continent, mainly in the United States, Europe and Asia, even though the offer and demand curves are intersecting locally, and an increase of buyers is being witnessed.


Osinachi  (B. 1991). Man in a Pool I

Christie’s and 1-54 present an auction of Different Shades of Water, an NFT series by Nigerian crypto-artist, Osinach


The sales of non-fungible tokens (NFT) also boosted the art market during the Covid 19 pandemic, reverberated across the art world and led to the establishment of online sale auctions (Source: FurtherAfrica). Osinachi, a Nigerian artist, is the first successful NFT artist from Africa, who after futile attempts at gallery representation in 2017 discovered the world of NFT’s.  (Source: Emsany). 


The rise in prices has led to growth and expansion of Africa’s industry: for instance, most prominent galleries have opened additional spaces to accommodate more programming, open up their businesses, and to create different art-viewing experiences. The commercial success of African Art has been especially attributed to a handful of artists such as Ghanaian artist Amoako Boafo, whose prices are estimated to have increased sharply from 2018 to 2022, after being championed by the influential Rubell family of collectors. This swayed other collectors who began picking out his works from his gallery and auctions and selling them for millions.  Another prominent artist in Africa is Nigeria’s Ben Enwonwu, famous for several pieces including one dubbed as Africa’s Mona Lisa named ‘Christine’, which sold for USD 1.4M at an auction in London in 2019 (Source the exchange.africa).


As central figures, artists are increasingly being regularly invited to major art centers in the world for various exhibitions, residencies and studies. Beyond this the role of information technology and modern communication must be considered. The internet and social networks have been important levers because they profoundly modify and amplify the diffusion and access to African creation.The strong interest in a young generation of African Artists has fueled the highest auction sales by modern and contemporary artists from Africa following the stall due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  Further, one of the most prominent and renowned African artists, Ghanaian sculptor El Anatsui’s new layout installation sold for 1.9 million USD in New York (USA) last year (Source: BBC Business).


BBC Business claims the economic meltdown caused by the pandemic may have also attracted interest from wealthy collectors, who realized that saving money in the bank yielded little profit, prompting them to put their money elsewhere.  Investing in African art is a lucrative business. Collecting African art results in better returns, and shows great growth potential, as the market is now more visible, recognized and understood as art of equal value on the world stage. There is a high  talent pool  of young creatives on the African continent, fabricating and designing visually stunning and exceptional art. As a result of the continent's abundance of creativity, demand and admiration for African art increased exponentially. Buying art (and other collectibles) is not only a good monetary choice, but  collecting African art is also a social investment. It strengthens the economic growth and success of young emerging artists on the African continent. (Source: African Market (™))

El Anatsui

Following the success of the African art market in 2021, the trend has been predicted to continue in 2022 as confirmed by ArtTactic. Sales of works by African art creatives surged by 44.1% in 2021, reaching 72.4 million USD in sales compared to 50.2 million USD in 2021. The result is the highest total ever for the African Modern and Contemporary art market and shows a 20.4% increase in average art prices and a 19.7% increase in the number of lots coming to the market in 2021.  

Art appreciates over time, and is a lucrative investment in the art-buying world.  Avid art collectors not only invest in African art to build up a collection that will grow in cultural, financial and fiscal worth, but successful collectors buy African art based on their own regulated aesthetics, personal value, and emotional response to the artwork. (Source: Art land magazine ) Collectors who already purchase art within prevailing markets, recognize that buying art from established artists provides excellent value. Established African artists have been around longer and have proven themselves, they are more likely to sell at auctions and command higher prices, and their value is defined by recognized galleries, auction houses and major art markets. (Source: Ken’art)


Beginners or collectors with less purchasing power, benefit more economically by investing in art of emerging African artists. They are less expensive than that of prominent artists, but it does not necessarily mean they are a bad investment or not valuable. Art galleries regularly seek emerging artists because they often produce new styles and mediums. Unrecognized African artists are an essential investment; when clients purchase their work, emerging artists develop their craft and further establish themselves within the international art market. As their value increases in the arts ecosystem, so does the buyer’s collection.(Source: Artsy) Unique cryptographic tokens like NFT’s, have flexible price points, and are a good way to invest in art for inexperienced collectors and art lovers. They have  a market that is financially rewarding, and new collectors get the opportunity to learn more about the space, and they often engage directly with the artist. However, like any other artform, a certain agility and finesse is required to avoid being scammed. It is advisable to steer clear of unrecognized sites, never share private information like wallet, recovery phrase and avoid responding to DM’s with over-hyped profitable offers.  (Source: Art+Tech Report)


Online galleries such as www.taah.co.uk are generally more approachable when it comes to providing information, and new buyers can easily compare artists, styles and prices. A great way to build a unique collection is to conduct research and ask the right questions. Consider goals, love and interest, attend art fairs, openings and exhibitions and purchase limited edition works like original prints and photographs. There is no fixed rule to African art collecting, but the collector needs to acquire a sense of discernment to draw parallels between their preference and budget range. Purchase art with your instinct, request a certificate of authenticity for each purchase, evaluate cost of shipping, taxes and customs, to build a formidable collection. In a wider future, patrons and key players within the African art scene are confident that the interest in African art is here to stay and that the market value of African art will continue to rise.


*This report  provides a synoptic overview of the art market utilizing the frame of reference from art market reports, art advisors, auction houses and collectors of emerging art sectors. It commits to unveiling an overall feel of current market trends, and a critical contemplation into the contemporary African art market. 


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