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Austral Africa Art Market Numbers

The most mature market for contemporary art in Africa is South Africa, which in many ways reflects the stability of its economy. The country has a multitude of collaborative artist studios, artist-run spaces, schools and universities for artists and art historians, century-old and recently-founded art galleries, private collections and state-of-the-art museums. An everlarger number of artists and critics from South Africa have achieved international recognition in the past 20 years.

South Africa had a noticeable presence at the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013.

South Africa had a noticeable presence at the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013. Besides the South African Pavilion curated by Brenton Maart, Santu Mofokeng’s photographs were exhibited next to Ai Weiwei’s work in the German pavilion. In addition, South African Nobel Prize winner John Maxwell Coetzee curated the Belgian pavilion, which was dedicated to Flemish artist Berlinde De Bruyckere.
The South African art scene began to flourish during the apartheid era and exploded in the 1990s. In 1995, the first Johannesburg biennial, Africus, curated by Lorna Ferguson and Christopher Till, was the symbol of this coming-of-age at an international level. Today, a generation of established artists such as William Kentridge, David Goldblatt, Marlene Dumas, Candice Breitz, Kendell Geers and Irma Stern share the spotlight with younger contenders such as Zanele Muholi and Billie Zangewa.

The most mature market for contemporary art in Africa is South Africa, which in many ways reflects the stability of its economy.

The institutional system in South Africa is based on the European model where the state supports the arts. Unfortunately, the recent economic downturn has seen the public support fade and several art galleries, art schools and non-profit organizations collapse. Consequently, the commercial galleries became far more involved in supporting art production, museum exhibitions and catalogues.
Among the commercial galleries, the oldest one is Everard Read (established in Johannesburg in 1913), which represents well-established modern and contemporary artists such as Irma Stern, Jacob Heindrik Pierneef and photographer Zwelethu Mthethwa. The Goodman Gallery was founded by activist and philanthropist Linda Goodman in 1966. Now owned by Liza Essers, the gallery represents over 40 South African and international artists and has been participating in art fairs including Art Basel and Art Basel Miami Beach since 2003. Stevenson Gallery, Gallery MOMO, Brundyn+, WhatIfTheWorld and Blank Projects constitute the younger generation of contemporary art galleries launched in 2000-2010.
Art from the 19th and 20th century up to contemporary, is found at Graham’s Fine Art Gallery, while David Krut Projects encompasses an experimental print workshop, a bookstore and a gallery space. This commercial scene contributes towards providing advice to a growing number of collectors in South Africa.
In addition to the art dealers and galleries, local auction houses mainly Stephan Welz & Company Limited and Strauss & Co – cover the secondary market. Founded in 1968 by Stephen Welz and then resold, Stephan Welz & Co is South Africa’s longest-established auction house with salesrooms in Cape Town and Johannesburg. It has achieved several record prices for South African artists including William Kentridge, Ephraim Ngatane and Cecil Skotnes.

Two “boutique” art fairs, FNB Joburg Art Fair and Cape Town Art Fair, also drive the modern and contemporary art market.

Two “boutique” art fairs, FNB Joburg Art Fair and Cape Town Art Fair, also drive the modern and contemporary art market. Other fairs include Design Indaba, which is dedicated to design, and Turbine Art Fair, which focuses on more affordable artworks (below 30,000 rands or US$ 2,600). The newest venture is That Art Fair, an art fair focusing on younger audiences and collectors that will be launched in 2015 alongside Cape Town Art Fair.
Private and corporate collections show the strength of the private art sector in South Africa. The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA) will open at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town in 2017. It is a US$ 120 million public-private partnership between German collector Jochen Zeitz and the V&A. It will spread through the nine floors of the historic Grain Silo building redesigned by British architect Thomas Heatherwick. Jochen Zeitz commits his collection in perpetuity, underwrites the museum’s running costs and provides an acquisition budget. According to Zeitz MOCAA’s executive director and chief curator Mark Coetzee (former director of the Rubell Family Collection in Miami), the funds were raised in six weeks and the permanent collection is being assembled at the pace of 80 to 150 acquisitions per month.
The Spier Collection is another extensive private collection and a dynamic actor of the South African art scene. On a smaller scale, there is the New Church Museum, which opened in 2012 thanks to art collector Piet Viljoen who committed his collection of 400 artworks in perpetuity. South African businessman and art collector Gordon Schachat also intends to open a private museum in the near future.
Sixteen universities across the country have Master and PhD level art education. They often have their own exhibition spaces, including the University of Johannesburg Art Gallery and Substation at the Wits School of Arts, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. A plethora of non-profit organizations stimulate the visual arts communities of the main cities, encouraging professionalism and providing studio spaces, residency programs and workshops.
Prominent museums range from the Johannesburg Art Gallery, established in 1910 to the very recent Museum of African Design (MOAD). The latter is a multi-disciplinary exhibition and performance space housed in a 1500 squaremeter factory warehouse from the 1920s, with 15 meter-high ceilings, and an on-site workshop for artist and artisan collaborations.
While Angola does not appear as well established as South Africa, its capital boasts one of the biggest collection of African Art on African soil. The Sindika Dokolo Foundation was created in 2004 in Luanda, Angola, by the Danish-Congolese businessman and art lover Sindika Dokolo and the Angolan artist Fernando Alvim. The purpose of the Sindika Dokolo African Collection of Contemporary Art is to keep African art on the African continent. In 2005, Sindika Dokolo bought the collection of the German collector Hans Bogatzke, which represents a quarter of his collection today. The foundation collaborates with Western museums to increase the visibility of African countries abroad. The collection has been shown in several international fairs and exhibitions, such as the ‘Africa Remix’ traveling exhibition between 2004 and 2007 and the African Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2007.
South Africa


Spier Arts Trust
South Africa

Spier is an award-winning wine estate, located 50 km from Cape Town and owned by the investment holding company Yellowwoods. Since 1996, the group’s main community social investment has been in the visual and performing arts. Spier owns one of the most extensive contemporary art collections in South Africa, which is exhibited in the group’s premises on a yearly rotational basis. The Spier Arts Trust’s initiatives include the Spier Arts Academy, whose founding director is Jeanetta Blignaut, the Creative Block project and Spier Films, all of which aim to support South Africa’s arts community. The Artist Patronage Programme provides support over a four or five-year period to artists in order to give them creative freedom. Selected artists include Wim Botha, Paul Emmanuel, Tamlin Blake and Berco Wilsenach.


Fred Scott, Stephan Welz & Co.,
South Africa

Dr Fred Scott, a specialist in modern and contemporary art, is head of the Fine Art department at Stephan Welz & Co.
“Historically, South Africa formed the hub of the art market in Africa. The wealth created through the early diamond and gold mining brought the culture of art collecting to South Africa. Besides a few art galleries and auction houses throughout the country, the launch of Sotheby’s offices in Johannesburg in 1968 further stimulated the collecting of fine art amongst the South African public. Contemporary South African art has traditionally been sold through art galleries and recently through art fairs in Cape Town and Johannesburg. Galleries such as Goodman, Stevenson, WhatIfTheWorld, MOMO, Afronova and Christopher Møller making special efforts to introduce the work of contemporary artists from the African continent into South Africa. Although operating in the secondary market, the major auction houses like Stephan Welz and Co, Strauss and Co, as well as Bonhams in the UK, are actively sourcing contemporary African art and promoting it by publishing it in their catalogues. Besides purchasing from galleries throughout the African continent, direct transactions with artists via the internet are also creating opportunities for collectors.
“Historically, South Africa formed the hub of the art market in Africa. The wealth created through the early diamond and gold mining brought the culture of art collecting to South Africa.”
Fred Scott
“Historically, South Africa formed the hub of the art market in Africa. The wealth created through the early diamond and gold mining brought the culture of art collecting to South Africa.” Fred Scott
What could be the main threats to the future of the African contemporary art market?
The creation of an artificial bubble when works lacking real artistic quality are indiscriminately pushed into the market due to the current hype surrounding contemporary African art could damage an artist’s market value in the long term. To counter this, advice from reputable galleries and curators should be considered in order that trust in respect of the worth and excellence of art emanating out of Africa is maintained. One wonders whether the Ebola epidemic and fear surrounding it could become a factor, hampering sales, growth and the movement of art out of Africa.
What are the most important event(s) for the African contemporary art market in 2015?
2015 kicks off with the 3rd Cape Town Art Fair organized by the leading global exhibition group, Fiera Milano. The fairs in Johannesburg and Cape Town as well as the UK’s 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair promise to offer more exciting African contemporary artworks.
Following in the footsteps of the newly opened Fondation Zinsou museum in Ouidah, Benin, dedicated to contemporary African art in sub-Saharan Africa, the launch of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art was announced in Cape Town. Before it opens in 2016, a selection of works from the Zeitz collection will be on display at a temporary exhibition space in the vicinity of the new museum. These exiting movements will no doubt increase awareness of contemporary African art on the continent.
What is the volume of transactions on the African contemporary art market? Why is it still small in comparison to other emerging markets like the Middle East, Latin America and China?
“It was recently announced that the Nigerian economy became Africa’s largest economy and portions of the newly created wealth is being channelled towards purchasing contemporary art. This is evident from the 22% growth in art sales.”
Fred Scott
It was recently announced that the Nigerian economy became Africa’s largest economy and portions of the newly created wealth is being channelled towards purchasing contemporary art. This is evident from the 22% growth in art sales. There is growing interest in Nigerian art from countries besides Nigeria.
While the South African art market is estimated at around 150 million USD, it makes up only a very small fraction of the total global art market. The Nigerian art market is in a similar situation. An under-developed collecting culture, as well as the perception that art collecting is elitist and only for the wealthy, contribute to the fact that these markets remain small.
Sales for Bonhams in Africa in May 2014 raised US$1.9 million, up 47% from 2013. According to the Deloitte’s Art and Finance Report 2014, the increase of wealthy individuals, as well as growth of the African art market, has created a new generation of African collectors who are acquiring art as an asset class. This is creating possibilities for a future art and finance industry as the African art market matures. It is being speculated that the Nigerian art market is set to take on the more established South African art market in the next 12 months.


Emma Bedford, Strauss & Co,
Cape Town, South Africa

Emma Bedford is senior art specialist at Strauss & Co, South Africa’s leading fine art auction house in Cape Town.
“It is impossible to quantify the volume of transactions in the African modern and contemporary art market as we do not have statistics from across the continent where in many countries galleries and auction houses are thriving. However, we do know that in 2014 Strauss & Co took the lead in the secondary market for modern and contemporary South African art having secured 52.2% of the market as against the biggest London competitor (34.2%) and the biggest local competitor (13.6%). With four auctions per annum alternating between Cape Town and Johannesburg, Strauss & Co’s annual turnover is in the region of 200 million rands (US$ 17.3 million).
While this may not seem that large in comparison to other international markets, there is no doubt that interest in contemporary African art is growing exponentially with local and international collectors keen to buy into this market.
African economies are predicted to boom, raising the prospects of what some pundits have called the ‘African lion’ emulating the ‘Asian tiger’. With increasing prosperity comes the desire to diversify assets and invest in culture. We are witnessing a hunger for contemporary art fuelled by the interests and passions of a new generation of collectors.
There are a number of significant drivers contributing to the growing interest in contemporary African art. Rapid globalization has brought increased possibilities for travel and the exchange of ideas. We see ourselves as global citizens: we attend Documentas, biennales and art fairs around the world. African-born artists, curators and intellectuals are studying, living and working abroad – many in key positions. Remember that it was a South African artist, Marlene Dumas, who commanded the highest price ever paid for a living female artist at auction when her painting, The Teacher (Sub A), 1987, fetched US$ 3.34 million in 2005.
“In 2014 Strauss & Co took the lead in the secondary market for modern and contemporary South African art having secured 52.2% of the market as against the biggest London competitor (34.2%) and the biggest local competitor (13.6%).”
Emma Bedford
Leading African intellectuals such as Okwui Enwezor are playing a vital role in defining our understanding of contemporary art.
All eyes are on the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA) which, under executive director and chief curator Mark Coetzee, will redefine contemporary African art for local and global audiences through exhibitions at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town and that will tour internationally. Designed by the London-based architect Thomas Heatherwick, the building will have its soft opening in late 2016 and formal opening in early 2017. However, cutting-edge exhibitions are already taking place in the Zeitz MOCAA Pavilion and surrounds, contemporary art appetites for what is to come.
The calibre of African artists and the quality of their art has seen a phenomenal growth of interest in contemporary African art and artists from their inclusion in major museum and gallery exhibitions to international public and private collections.
Strauss & Co’s auctions are inspiring increased confidence in the modern and contemporary African art market as collectors perceive that there is a strong secondary market for quality art with impeccable provenance, exhibition history and literature. An exponential growth in the South African contemporary art market over the last few years has seen record-breaking prices achieved for a rare Jane Alexander sculpture (5.5 million rands/ US$ 513,970), a significant Wim Botha sculpture (966,280 rands/ US$ 90,300), a Robert Hodgins composite painting (1.8 million rands/US$ 168,210), two early William Kentridge drawings (4.1 million rands/US$ 383,140 and 3.1 million rands/US$ 289,690), a Sydney Kumalo sculpture (1.4 million rands/ US$ 130,830), a Penny Siopis early pastel drawing (668,400 rands/US$ 62,460) and a Lucas Sithole sculpture (946,900 rands/US$ 88,490). Further boosting market confidence, most of these artists had 100% sell-through rates.
Younger artists such as Zimbabweborn Kudzanai Chiurai and Swaziland-born Nandipha Mntambo also performed well while Ethiopia-born, US-based Julie Mehretu has had her work snapped up by an astute collector. Almost all the works of art on offer at Strauss & Co’s auctions are by African-born or based artists and about 95% were produced between the mid-twentieth century and the present day.


Musha Neluheni, Johannesburg Art Gallery,
South Africa

Musha Neluheni is the curator for contemporary collections at the Johannesburg Art Gallery.
“The Johannesburg Art Gallery has approximately 10 000 pieces in its collections. The four major collections are the Historical Collection, Contemporary Collection, Prints and works on paper, and the Traditional Southern African Collection. We have minor collections of ceramics and textiles. The collections policy of the Johannesburg Art Gallery currently focuses on traditional and contemporary Southern African works. We do however make exceptions to pieces of historical relevance should the artist be missing from the collection.
We usually have at least four exhibitions per annum that draw from our collection, and the rest of the exhibitions feature South African and international contemporary artists.
We exhibit artists from all over the world should we accept their proposal. We do however only purchase African modern, contemporary and traditional art. This is to correct imbalances of the past in which very little African art was purchased.
As a public museum, our target is the general public. The museum was left to the City of Johannesburg and its people; therefore we are a free public museum open to the public. The public’s response to the exhibitions differs for different audiences. Some prefer the Historical collection, especially the schools as these works are in their curriculum. But the younger professionals prefer Contemporary art. Our foreign visitors enjoy the Traditional Southern African collections. Johannesburg is a very cosmopolitan city with such a diverse audience. We therefore try to be representative of all our collections at any given time.
I think that exhibiting a collection is a way of promoting culture in Africa. Any cultural activity be it art, dance or theatre will assist in promoting culture in any country.
Africa as a continent has a long and ingrained cultural history that predates most modern civilisations. I think African countries are starting to regain that history and embrace it. African artists for a long time focused on what the West was doing as a benchmark for their cultural expression and we have seen that turning around. African artists are really looking internally at an African expression, which has reinvigorated the African cultural landscape.
It really excites me that South Africa and other African countries are once again at the 56th Venice Biennale. It’s a great honour for our young and established South African artists to be able to exhibit on large international platforms. Not only are these artists gaining experience but they are showcasing the depth and broadness of African culture to the world.”


Sindika Dokolo, collector,

Art collector and businessman Sindika Dokolo was born in Kinshasa in 1972. Based in Luanda, Angola, the Sindika Dokolo Foundation has thrived to implement cultural, economic and political mechanisms for the development of contemporary African art. The foundation has promoted cultural events and festivals in Luanda, produced the first Triennial of Luanda and organized the first African pavilion at the 52nd Venice Biennale.
“I started collecting at an early age, thanks to my parents. Without being compulsive collectors, like I’ve become, my parents have always possessed an unquestionable and eclectic taste. I grew up surrounded by objects from different worlds. In our home, Degas paintings were hung alongside 18th century Kongo kingdom Ntadi stone statues, Ming dynasty china and American design pieces from the 1950s. There was no dilemma about mixing Louis XV bergères [upholstered French armchairs] with Scandinavian coffee tables. What counted was the inner quality of each object and a confident sense of the aesthetic in matching the pieces in a coherent and beautiful way. I was probably around 10 years old when my father gave me my first art piece, which was a Tshokwe anthropomorphic ceremonial axe and he encouraged me to look, touch and learn. With my own four children who are between 14 and 6, each one has received a work that I thought would correspond to their character and taste. Children should get a chance to engage with art at an early age, in the same way that they should to be exposed to a foreign language at an age when learning comes with little effort.
I kept around 400 pieces from the Hans Bogatz collection that I acquired 12 years ago. I bought around 1,500 works from the photographic collection of La Revue Noire in 2010 and over the past 10 years I have acquired, co-produced and commissioned many artworks. I don’t waste time counting as I believe a collection cannot be appreciated by the number of works but rather by its contextual relevance. For more than a decade now, the collection has been an obsession and fascination for me; my ambition is for it to illustrate, in a sensitive and intelligent way, art on the African continent at the turn of the 21st century.
The exhibition Magiciens de la Terre was a fire starter for the market in the 1990s. The market is growing steadily and it is important that it grows structurally and not just conjecturally based on trends. We desperately need more African collectors or even just occasional buyers in order to give the market a solid basis on which to grow and expand. The 52nd Venice Biennale mainly had an impact on African curators and young African artists and contributed to a general feeling of self-confidence and self-reliance.
“The exhibition Magiciens de la Terre was a fire starter for the market in the 1990s.”
Sindika Dokolo
My art foundation has an informal acquisition committee which consists of Paris-based, Cameroonian curator Simon Njami and Angolan artist and curator Fernando Alvim. We have all been friends for a long time and our appreciation of new artists and taste often match. I also work with art consultant Eve Therond who is based in New York. She travels around the world in search of new talent. She recently went to Uganda, where she found a young artist called Paul Ndema whose work we acquired for the collection. As a collector, what interests me is ‘Africanity’ looking at the African contribution to global aesthetics. I am not interested in origin, skin colour or nationality. They are irrelevant as far as my collection is concerned. This is why I integrated Warhol and Basquiat in the Luanda Pop show and asked my friend, the Spanish artist Miquel Barceló to inaugurate the African Pavilion at the Venice Biennale with me. The approach of collecting only black artists or artists from certain regions is to me anti-artistic and turns a collection into an anecdotal accumulation of objects. The works become a cabinet of curiosities and kills the elegance and the pertinence of the point of view, it is an unintelligent classification.
The real added value of an African collection of art is to expose the African audience to its own contemporary creation. It is a moral and political responsibility and an effort must be made so that our continent is more integrated in the art world circuits. Therefore, I decided early on that my collection would always be available for free for any museum around the world who would be interested in hosting an exhibition. However, I have one demand in that the museum has the obligation to organize the same exhibition in an African country of its choice. We cannot just accept that African art will never be seen in Africa because our continent is still poor and focused on its primordial needs.”
“The real added value of an African collection of art is to expose the African audience to its own contemporary creation.”
Sindika Dokolo
Malick Sidibé, Soirée des Frangins,1966 © Malick Sidibé

Malick Sidibé, Soirée des Frangins,1966 © Malick Sidibé