African art arrives
Top international art houses and auctioneers have a new destination when it comes to scouring for art for global sales. Africa is the hottest commodity. investigates the interest.
The year was 2008. Anthropologist and communications expert Julie Taylor was based in London and was working for Google. “I visited Zimbabwe, where I grew up and where my family lives,” says Taylor, who recently left Google to found Guns & Rain, a curated online gallery of contemporary f ine art from southern Africa.
“It was a very dark year in Zimbabwe’s history. I learned that some artists were literally not eating for days at a time,” Taylor says. With permission from a local gallery owner, she decided to post some images of artworks on a blog site. Overnight she sold three works to international buyers.
“I realised then that the internet could potentially change artists’ lives. I put the idea about an online platform on the backburner until about 18 months ago, and then, in 2014, I decided to give up my Google career to pursue Guns & Rain full time,” she says.
Taylor’s timing is spot on. Giles Peppiatt, from Bonhams, is frequently in Africa scouring countries like Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda for fine art for the London auction house’s next fall of the hammer.
At a recent media briefing in Lagos, Nigeria, Peppiatt described Africa, in art terms, as “one of our hottest properties on the art block”. In an AFP article, Peppiatt states that “in some ways, Africa is the new China when it comes to art. We are investing time, money and people to maintain our presence in this market.”
Peppiatt established ‘ The South African Sale’ at Bonhams some eight years ago, a sale that it now declares turns “over a greater value of artwork than is sold in all of South Africa” and which has “established London as the centre for the South African Art market”.
What’s fuelling the desire for art from Africa? In London’s Financial Times, respected cultural journalist Maya Jaggi writes: “Underlying the surging global interest is a more fundamental shift in perception. Art from Africa was tended to be viewed as tribal or primal, despite the decisive inf luence of classical West African sculpture on European modernism through Picasso and others. The resilience of myths of
Rich, stylistic detail and textures
mark Bambo Sibiya’s linocuts
and drypoint works, which seem to give insight into masculine identity and community on the streets of