Auction sales for African art and dealer sales are increasing and gaining increasing visibility. But the market needs a bit more to really gain traction and grow volume. The 1:54 art fair in London last week was part of that equation but the field also needs a prominent, taste-making collector to really put the category into orbit. The AP talked to Guy Ullens about the field. But as Giles Peppiatt of Bonhams knows best, African art (or really the many African arts) needs its own name:
There are signs of new interest. Among the Africa initiates at 1:54 was Belgian industrialist Guy Ullens, known for his huge trove of Chinese contemporary art.
“The quality,” the art baron said, “is very good.”
The price is also relatively cheap, when compared to art from other developing markets. Anatsui’s mesmerizing metallic tapestries can sell for more than $800,000, but many of the works on display at 1:54 – like Ove’s “Black Astronaut,” which features aviator goggles and an alligator head – carry a price tag of several thousand dollars.
Overall, the African art market’s figures remain small compared to the millions brought in by its counterparts in other developing markets.
Peppiatt said the growth over the past five years had been striking.
“I just think of where we’ve come from,” he said, “which is: nowhere.”