The global art market is essentially characterized today by geographical regions, countries or continents. In that perspective, African art gaining momentum is reflected in the latest Sotheby’s London art sales of their new 2017 department on modern and contemporary African art. Already showcased worldwide in dedicated art fairs, exhibitions, foundations or museums, the contemporary African art scene is indisputably a hotbed of major talents. The most famous names under the spotlight are El Anatsui, Hassan El Glaoui, Skunder Boghossian, Ibrahim El Salahi, Ablade Glover, and Cheri Samba. With some entering auctions for the first time, they exceeded the price expectations, establishing new auction records for 11 artists. Congolese Cheri Samba’s painting “J’aime la couleur” from 2005 estimated around £40,000-60,000 resulted in a £93,750 – $122,344 auction selling.
As expected, Ghana with the famous sculptural installation artist El Anatsui ranked at the top, with the bottle tops tapestry Zebra Crossing 2” sold for about $1.5 million.
The works of the most recent and nonetheless swiftly growing artists like Congolese Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga are sought to become more and more in demand, and the current estimated prices are thus unlikely to remain the same.
Morocco and Ethiopia’s art heritage are introduced with the paintings of Hassan El Glaoui “La sortie du Roi” and Alexander Skunder Boghossian “Harvest Scrolls”, the countries’ aiming to be the heart of Africa’s art, giving their national artists new platforms.
Nigeria, South Africa as major players already thrive through their own fine art auction houses, and through their artists’ international renown in the past years. (Nigerian artists like J.D. Okhai Ojeikere, Ben Enwonwu, Uzo Egonu were sold at the auctions)
The past sales by Bonhams had shown immense promise, but the London April 2 sales of over 75 lots are a testimony of a stratospheric rise, demonstrating the continuous chain effect for long-time celebrated masters but most importantly for young and booming contemporary artists. While native African collectors represented the majority of the buyers by far, Western collectors as well have shown a surge of interest for the important investment opportunities that the sales’ total of $3 million foreshadows. The interest from wealthy collectors and art institutions like Sotheby’s is influential in assessing once again that the African art market has a positive future and a global audience.