African artists banking on a record-breaking contemporary and modern art market


written by Daniel Renjifo, CNN

For Abidjan-based artist Saint-tienne Yenzi, the continent’s social and political reality has sparked a creative evolution for contemporary African artists, he says, giving them the confidence to work and live in Africa.

The contemporary art market in Ivory Coast and sub-Saharan Africa has captured the imaginations of collectors globally, translating into profits for many artists such as Saint-Etienne. He says that in his seven years as an artist the average value of individual pieces of his work increased from about $8,000 to $60,000.

Perhaps the greatest example of this exponential growth is the Ivorian Rising Star Abdoulaye Diorasouba, better known as Aboudia. “He is one of those artists that has evolved well in recent years,” says gallery owner Cecil Fakhouri, who opened his gallery in Abidjan, Ivory Coast in 2012, and Aboudia’s vibrant style of painting such as graffiti Have seen – reminiscent of late works Jean-Michel Basquiata – Advance your career.

“Today, the paintings we see here (in the gallery) are worth between $47,000 and $180,000,” she adds.

In May, Abudia’s “Untitled (2015)” sold for $232,000, which is 835% higher than pre-sales valuation estimates and broke his personal record last year.

Other established African artists from Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and Nigeria recently made international headlines at the bi-annual Sotheby’s Modern and Contemporary African Art auction in London. Renowned Nigerian artist Ben Enwonwu’s “Atlas” sold for more than half a million dollars at Sotheby’s auction in March, setting a new world record for an African sculpture.

record breaking art

“2020 was our most successful year to date,” says Hannah O’Leary, Sotheby’s Head of Modern and Contemporary African Art. Despite going virtual due to the pandemic, last October’s event sold more than $4.4 million in art.

In March, Sotheby’s again exceeded pre-sales estimates by 40%, selling $3.7 million worth of art from 34 countries. O’Leary says that since the start of the African art auction in 2017, the company has broken 90 world records.

“Every time we break one of these records, we are setting new standards and raising the reputation of our artists,” she adds.

How an Ivorian art revival is driving up prices

For Idelfons Afogbolo, a Beninese collector living in Ivory Coast, buying art deepens the artist’s creativity, but also evaluates African artists more appropriately against their international counterparts. “Contemporary artists are like (Jeff) Koons And others that are being snubbed for $20 million,” Afogbolo says. “I hope one day we’ll have a cast of recognized talent who can get these kind of selling prices.”

Meanwhile in Abidjan’s local galleries, Fakhouri believes that the contemporary African art market will be driven mostly by international sales, but also by the desire of a younger generation of collectors and artists to see the potential.

“This ultra-diverse young generation, the expatriates studying abroad who saw there is an art market – they realize there is a scene, a story, and they start to take an interest in it,” she says.

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