People don’t buy Art they buy the Artist .
His sweat his emotions his life . I am really pleased at the opening of the Zeitz Museum of contemporary art in South Africa. Finally as an African artist in 2017 we have an institution on the continent that sees art as big business and is dedicated to supporting it. A repository for the work, a curator, a standard to aspire to.A stage to play on. Its good, its fun it could start a trend.
What does it mean to be an African artist ? For the most part it means nothing , artists all over the world are treated similarly, you will be treated like a craftsman all your life, if you manage to achieve some modicum of acknowledgement respect or fame in your life time it will be swept away at deaths door, your recognition will most probably come from foreigners, with at best empathy for your work and admiration for the craftsmanship but it will be pyrrhic because it will always be viewed out of context. This is the case now and it has been in the past. But all that may be about to change with the opening of Zeitz an institution with the ability to collect and house vast numbers of artists work.
There is so much out there, so many artists. To be able to see hundreds of their works on display would be such a tour de force.
I also hope it is a harbinger for more of these institutions. This is essential for the posterity of African artists work.
The development of these institutions are an extremely important piece of the cultural pie that makes a city. Art is an essential part of modern life it is the corner stone of design and the protector of free thought. As long as you have houses you will have walls as long as you have walls you will have art.
A cursory glance at recent auction prices will show that art is an under valued investment in Africa , you may have been better of buying government bonds (using a simple interest rate calculation ). I am talking about art by the acknowledged living masters.
Are we at the cusp of change ? With the breath of curators, galleries and auction houses we have, is a correction in value of artists work on its way ? Africa has a middle class well able to invest in art.
With social media artists are finally getting the audience they deserve, I think a lot of African artists are under valued, what is emerging is a divide where you get Diaspora based African artists breaking records and getting rockstar attention due to the African audience meanwhile local artists do not have the required management to lift them to these levels. This shouldn't be the case, there are over 1 billion Africans and many bridges unite us. But with out the institutions to back local art we will never be able to compete at the gift shop or on the walls and once again our art will be made to seem exotic and viewed through colonial lens
I will be keeping my eye on the attendance figures and revenue from the gift shop, I really wish them luck.
We may also see established artists and their estates buying up their work at auction/secondary market, driving up the values locally as they await the call from Zietz.
Success of Zeitz will open up the market giving younger artists space to manoeuvre, more degrees of success, more rungs on the ladder in terms of price and valuation.
Africa has a lot to offer the art community and a lot to be proud of, our established artist have a sizeable body of work. The opportunity to view this at this stage would be a trip ! The content required for a blockbuster show any where is available on the continent.
Sometimes it seems we have 3 main pricing tiers for art in Nigeria, below N1m, below N5m and above N10m this is not enough depth for the market. Not enough art priced above N10m and too much around the N1m range we need a better range of prices. For this to happen we hope the galleries and auction houses will give us a better deal.
There are enough million dollar residences in Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt not to talk of Nigerian residences abroad (diaspora and native owned) to warrant a steeper price curve. Demand is strong and adequate supply exists. Viewed from my simplistic lens we have three pillars of any Art market the curators the galleries/auction houses and the institutions(museums private and public)
Curators are like risk analyst they should have the data at hand and the necessary training to advise, their active publications keep us informed and shed transparency on the often cloudy world of art. They are the mothers midwives teachers guardians publicists and disciplinarians of artists.
Their social media presence is educating a lot of people and making art accessible
The galleries and auction houses are like the banks coming up with vehicles for selling art more products more price points. They protect the value of artists they represent holding sizeable collections in storage
Institutions are the citadels of power, they hold the reserves and moderate the market they have the power to mop up excess liquidity and are the ultimate store of Art.They are the public face and have a responsibility to the public to maintain access to works deemed of national, cultural, historical or academic value.
we need all three to grow
It is time to take a bolder look into Art in Africa figures don’t lie our social media imprint is impressive. I believe Zeitz MOCA will keep artists in the spotlight and this is a good thing for all artist in Africa.