The South China Morning Post takes a long look at Chinese collectors buying African art which may prove decisive in launching this still-growing market:
“Chinese collectors, by and large, are interested in three things here in London,” [Bonhams’s Giles] Peppiatt says. “Repatriation of Chinese objets d’art, European contemporary art and African contemporary art. The relationship between China and African art makes a lot of sense once you think about it. Firstly, I would say the biggest demographic buying contemporary African art is sophisticated, knowledgeable collectors who purchase for aesthetic pleasure. They are people who look at an El Anatsui [sculpture] and think, ‘That would fit with the rest of my collection’, no matter whether they own any other art from the region. And, as we all know, Chinese collectors are some of the bravest and most ambitious in the world.
“Secondly, the Chinese contemporary art market is slowing and local art lovers need to find a new region to focus on. Thirdly, China has been in Africa for some 20 years, searching, dominating, digging it up. People want art they have some kind of connection with and none of us can deny China and Africa have a relationship, no matter how difficult it is. And finally, of course, there is the price point. Which is very alluring to any collector.” […]
[William] Kentridge in particular has proved popular with Chinese collectors. Although many artists have been influenced by the profound changes China’s presence in Africa has wrought, Kentridge has gone one step further, creating a series of drawings and installations that explore parallels between the Cultural Revolution and apartheid-era South Africa, both devastating regimes that blindly pursued an unobtainable utopia. These artworks were brought together under one exhibition, titled “Notes Towards a Model Opera”, that opened at the Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art in Beijing last year and Seoul this year.
“China certainly hovers over us like a huge zeppelin,” Kentridge writes in the exhibition programme. “The scale of it, the scale of its hunger for resources, the scale of everything. China in Africa today creates a sense of a series of questions rather than any answers. Are we here the tethered goat waiting for the tiger? Easy pickings?”
Can contemporary art help mend the relationship between China and Africa? (South China Morning Post)