The African Art market is experiencing a boom with South Africa and Nigeria set to take the lead. In the year 2014, the African art market was estimated to be worth more than twenty million British pounds according to a study done by Art Market monitor. This number seems large, however when one looks at the percentage the African market contributes to the global market, it is still a relatively small market. The same study prepared by Art Market monitor also stated that the top three non-African collectors of African Art consist of British, Middle-Eastern and American citizens. When one brings the amount of people currently residing on the African continent into consideration, the size of the market also seems quite small. This post serves to analyze the Cape Town Art Fair and its impact on the African Art Market.
The Cape Town Art Fair attracts more than 7000 visitors each year. The galleries that were showcasing at 2015’s fair recorded up to R20 million in sales. The vision the fair has is to be the leading art fair representing contemporary art from the continent, the diaspora and the new markets. They aim to do this through:
- Showcasing the latest trends in Contemporary Art;
- Adapting best international practices to build and sustain an economic platform for the art market;
- Stimulating new collectors whilst also introducing them to new artists.
- Stimulating new and innovative forms of production and channeling these into new nodes of consumption (collection processes); and
- Creating dialogue around educational practices that develop new skills and professionalism within the sector
It was very pleasant witnessing the direction in which the African art scene is currently moving as depicted by the pieces that were on show. African history seemed to play a big role in inspiring the artworks on show, which included collections devoted to telling the story of Sarah Baartman and the Japanese Legend of the Black Samurai (one of Japan’s greatest fighters who was of Mozambican origin) yet there still exists a huge gap when it comes to African stories being told through art by Africans, as opposed to European onlookers.
The directors of the art fair stated earlier this month that the aim of 2016’s fair would be to inspire a three level dialogue; one about the South African art world itself, one about the art from the rest of the Continent and lastly, it aimed to spark conversation about the global art world in general. The fair seems to have succeeded in achieving this but possibly to the detriment of the actual fair. In attempting to encompass stories about the world of art in general, some important and distinct features of African art were neglected. The trend which was the use of African history was the highlight of the fair and hopefully, the coming years will see African art fairs showcasing more artworks depicting authentic African stories representative of the wealth of diversity this continent possesses.