The highest price ever paid for a piece of art by a contemporary African artist was £541,250 (R9 million) in 2012 for New World Map by Ghanaian artist El Anatsui. Premier art fair Art Basel in 2015 dedicated a programme of talks to the subject of the African art market. Specialist galleries are flourishing under the growing interest of collectors in this field.
This boom has been building over a few years but this will be the year it bursts into the consciousness of a broader public, particularly in Cape Town. In September 2017 the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa is due to officially open in the historic grain silo at the Waterfront. The 1920s granary has been converted into a museum which will include 80 galleries, many of them housing the collection of contemporary art from Africa and the African diaspora belonging to German businessman and philanthropist Jochen Zeitz.
The Cape Town Art Fair at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) on 17 and 18 February is in its fifth edition and is aiming to take its place as a world art fair with African art production at its centre. The curator for 2017 is Tumelo Mosaka, a South African who has had an illustrious career in the USA. An unprecedented number of applications from local and international galleries were received and the selection process has been extensive.
About 70 galleries will have booths, alongside curated exhibitions and events. “Tomorrows/ Today” will feature the curator’s selection of young artists from across the African continent. Art museums and cultural institutions will also exhibit works in a section called “Cultural Platforms”. Other highlights of the fair will be the talks programme covering a rich and diverse range of topics in contemporary art, and a section dedicated to art publications. Arts organisation Lalela is producing a family guide to the fair and workshops with local artists.
Then, within the space of a week, the focus on contemporary African art continues with the inaugural Art Africa Fair 2017 opening at the V&A Waterfront on 24 February. They offer an alternative format with artists and galleries invited to participate in a series of museumstyled exhibitions.
The distinguished curators are Salimata Diop (Senegal/France) in charge of “Bright Young Things”, Uche Okpa-Iroha (Nigeria) in charge of photography, Pierre-Christophe Gam (Cameroon/ France/UK) curating the VIP lounge and social hub; and Thembinkosi Goniwe mentoring Ruzy Rusike to create “South Africa: Contemporary Art Now.”
Adding to the conversation is the “South- South” exhibition on at the Goodman Gallery throughout the month of February, which looks at cross-cultural influences between artists from Cuba, Brazil, South Africa, Angola, Mozambique, São Tome and Namibia, and whose whose work is “situated within and beyond the afterlife of political revolution”.