African Art Market Trends - Growing Demand From Western Collectors
Feb 13, 2023
The art market in Africa has experienced significant growth in recent years. This is due to several factors, including the emergence of a new generation of African artists and the increasing demand for their work from Western collectors. Additionally, increased access to digital platforms has allowed African art to reach a wider audience than ever before. We’ll take a closer look at some of the trends driving the African art market and how they are impacting the world of collecting.
Modern and Contemporary Works by African Artists
One of the most notable trends in the African art market is the rise in demand for modern and contemporary works by African artists. According to ArtTactic’s Modern & Contemporary African Artist Market Report, auction sales increased by 44% in 2021, amounting to $72 million. This surge in interest is attributed largely to international collectors who have become increasingly interested in works by young African artists.
This trend was reflected in both established markets like South Africa as well as emerging markets such as Nigeria where young collectors have been eager to buy works by top contemporary African artists. Furthermore, access to digital buy/sell platforms like artnet and the return of art fairs like 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, works have been able to reach an even larger global audience. With so much potential for further growth within this area of collecting – now could be a great time for those wishing to invest or simply enjoy beautiful works by some truly talented modern and contemporary African artists!
Prominent Female African Artists
Another trend that has had an impact on the African art market is the emergence of prominent female artists such Julie Mehretu and Njideka Akunyili Crosby. Both have seen their auction prices increase significantly over recent years as collectors have become more aware of their talent and influence on modern art history. Julie Mehretu’s “Black Ground (deep light)” sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong for $5,6M in 2019 and Njideka Akunyili Crosby’s “The Beautyful Ones” sold at Christie’s New York for $4.7M in 2022.
While male artists still dominate many aspects of the market, it is encouraging to see female artists featured amongst the top African artists for their contributions and achievements. Included alongside Julie Mehretu and Njideka Akunyili Crosby are Ben Enwonwu, Amoako Boafo and El Anatsui. These artists have all seen their works fetch record prices at auctions and are considered some of the best-selling contemporary African artists around.
Galleries Looking Towards Africa
African art is an integral part of many different cultures and boasts centuries of history behind it. Works represent a variety of styles and media including painting, photography, sculpture and installation art, each made with thoughtfully traditional techniques and often evoking a strong sense of African culture and history. Increasingly, galleries across the world are recognising African art as a source of talent and are providing a platform to African artists and their works. With African art being so varied and unique, it adds an interesting twist for gallery-goers to explore diverse art styles from all over the African continent.
These galleries provide a platform for African artists to showcase their works and gain admiration from the global audience and attract new buyers from abroad. Galleries give artists opportunities that may not have been available in previous generations. It is encouraging to see people around the world supporting African artists and appreciating their skills, it is also spurring exciting collaborations between African and international galleries as they look towards African artistic talent as an important source of collaboration.
Galleries that appreciate African art now form an important part of our global cultural conversation about African arts, making African culture more accessible to everyone. As galleries around the globe continue to draw on African talent for impressive works of art, we can only hope it will further open channels for artists to share their timeless talents and singular perspective on the world with us all.
Discover the Next Wave of African Art
The global nature of the art world is ever-evolving, and Africa is playing an increasingly prominent role. As Western audiences become more aware of the talented pool of artists coming out of the continent, there is a growing demand for their work. This has resulted in a boom in both auction prices and gallery representation for African artists. While contemporary pieces are gaining popularity, works by modern masters are also sought-after by collectors. And as the number of female artists making a name for themselves continues to grow, it's clear that this trend is here to stay. If you're interested in getting ahead of the curve and adding some truly unique pieces to your collection, keep an eye on what's happening next in the African art market! To get started, read our latest interview with African artist, Abdoulaye Konaté.
Juliet Helmke, Maureen Bray, Cristina Salmastrelli, Eric Smith, Mikhaile Solomon, Elena Zavelev