With one-third of African countries boasting economic growth rates above 6 percent, Africa, according to AfDB, is now the world’s fastest growing continent. Along with rapid urbanization, the art scene in several African countries have evolved and exhibitions focused on African artists have reached the far corners of the globe. Both Naveena Kottoor of BBC news and Cristina Ruiz of the Financial Times recently wrote articles about African art as the next big thing. From renowned African artists like El Anatsui to rock star curators like Okwui Enwezor to millionaire art collectors like Jean Pigozzi, here are 5 reasons to pay attention to contemporary African Art.
1) Growing Interest
With rabid urbanization and improved internet connectivity, local artists are finding outlets for their voice and museums, as well as art collectors around the world, are taking note. French-Italian art collector Jean Pigozzi is said to have the world’s largest private collection of African art with over 10,000 pieces. He continuously features the paintings of Chéri Samba (DRC) and other African artists in museums throughout the world, serving to increase public interest.
2) Exhibitions in Prominent Museums
Museums are spurring the public’s interest by hosting exhibitions focused on African Art. The Tate Modern recently committed to a 2-year showcase of contemporary African Art. The Art Dubai international art fair this past March invited works from galleries and artspaces located in West Africa. This interest stemmed from the “vibrant urbanization in the region,” which has fostered a new generation of African artists museum curators are excited about.
Nigeria-based El Anatsui is paving the way for a new generation of African artists. His art, made from bottle caps and tin cans, has been featured at the Met and MoMA in New York. Anatsui proved to other African artists that they could achieve success without relocating to cities like London or Paris. He has brought a greater focus to African-based art.
4) The Element of Surprise
The Golden Lion Award at the Venice Biennale, an international art exhibition, went to the Angola Pavilion’s Edson Chaga. This came as a huge surprise to most, changing perceptions about the African art scene. Chagas’ art depicted images of normalcy instead of war or conflict. “It changes the perception of Angola,” and in greater terms, of Africa.
5) Rise of Local Institutions
Along with the international art community taking an interest, local art institutions are working to support rising African artists. The Center for Contemporary Art in Lagos (CCAL), is a non-profit striving to create “innovative programs that work directly with artists to help further their practice.” Some other examples of local institutions include: Bisi Silva’s Center for Contemporary Art (CCA) in Lagos; the Kuona Trust, a center for visual arts in Nairobi; the Bag Factory Artists’ Studios – an artist residency in Johannesburg.
6) The New Curators
Okwui Enwezor hails from Nigeria and achieved “rock star curator” status as the first non-European to direct a Documenta in 1998. Ranked number 52 in the Art review’s list of the 100 most powerful people of the art world, he has paved the way for a new generation of African curators now in charge of some of the most important collections of contemporary African art in the West.
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