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Five Keys Reasons to Invest in African Art

How much do you think African art is worth these days?

Can you guess? I’ll give you some data

In November 2014, a collection of antique African art from Mali, Gabon, Congo and Liberia was sold in New York at Sotheby’s for a record-breaking price of $41 million. This is the largest ever sum realized from the sale of African art in the USA.

It’s not only antique African art that’s hot these days. Contemporary African art is increasingly attracting the attention of investors worldwide. The rise in fame of contemporary African artists on the international stage  such as the one offered by the Brooklyn Museum  in 2013 on Ghanaian sculptor El Anatsui, whose “New World Map” went for a record £541,250 at auction in 2012.

In 2012, at Bonhams in London, a piece of contemporary painting by the South African painter, Vladmir Tretchikoff, sold for five times the expected value, at £337, 250. The following year, another painting by the late artist, Chinese Girl, broke the record by selling for £982,000, three times as much as expected.

Wait, that’s not all.

Across the world, from New York to London, both antique and contemporary African works of art are now commanding high prices in the major art markets of the world.  So that the biggest art auction houses in the world, like Sotheby’s and Bonhams now have departments and teams dedicated to promoting and developing the business of selling African art.

Figures show that the number of new buyers of African art have risen quite remarkably. For example, between 2012 and 2013, the number of new buyers of African art grew by more than 70 percent.

We’ll be looking at five key reasons why the demand for African art is booming and why should you invest in African Art. African contemporary art is really at a turning point. In terms of art, Africa was an untouched Eden Until now.

  1. International collectors are interested in contemporary African art  and  half of the main buyers of African art are from Africa

A report from  a leading auction company in the world said that half of the buyers of contemporary African art were from Africa. “Interest in contemporary African art has exploded, particularly among international collectors, who expect it to be the next market where values increase in the same manner as contemporary Chinese art,” he said.  Mayfair gallery owner Michael Backman said: “The main market for top-end pieces is in Paris, which is where record auction results for tribal art tend to be achieved. Top-quality items that might have sold for £20,000 a decade ago can sell for millions now. Most buyers are Europeans, but there is increased interest from Africans wishing to buy pieces from their history. The most popular pieces are masks and figures with pieces from the Fang tribe of Gabon, the Luba from Congo and the Dogon of Mali particularly sought after. Yes, apart from the global demand for African art, Africans themselves are the biggest buyers of African art.

      2. The Internet

Traditionally, art is sold ‘in person’. People usually buy works of art like paintings, sculptures and carvings in art galleries, auctions, and during art exhibitions. But the internet is changing all of that. According to the Hiscox Online Art Trade Report 2015, the value of the global online art market has risen from just under $1 billion in 2013 to an estimated $2.64 billion in 2015.Based on this growth trajectory, the value of the online market for works of art is expected to be worth nearly $6.3 billion by 2019. This data clearly shows that more people around the world are getting comfortable with buying art online, without really needing to see it first. According to the Global Internet Geography report, Africa’s internet bandwidth grew 41 percent between 2014 and 2015, and 51percent compounded annually over the last five years, to reach 2.9Tbps. Today, a growing number of Africans, especially in the urban areas, have access to the internet. Even the big galleries, auction houses and traditional heavyweights of the art world acknowledge the growing influence of the internet on the art industry and are already moving online or making moves to.

  1. The number of ‘dollar millionaires’ in Africa is rising

Did you know that between the year 2000 and 2013, the number of Africa’s dollar millionaires increased by more than 150 percent? That’s two times faster than the worldwide growth rate of 73 percent, according to the United Nations Africa Renewal. In the latest report, South Africa topped the list with 48,800 dollar millionaires, followed by Egypt with 23,000, Nigeria with 15,900 and Kenya with 9,000.All of this massive wealth is coming from lucrative sectors like telecoms, financial services, retail, manufacturing, imports and exports, agriculture, commodities and several others.

As art is often the luxury of the rich, it’s not very surprising that more wealthy Africans are investing huge amounts in African art.The size of Africa’s economy is expected to double from $2 trillion to $4 trillion before 2025. And with this gigantic economic leap will enter more dollar millionaires. And as the population of the continent’s HNI (high net-worth individuals) continues to grow, so will their demand for antique and contemporary, modern art.

  1. African art has become a big attraction for global investors

Sotheby’s is one of the world’s most famous and prolific art auction houses. And here’s what it says about African art: If you are looking for an excellent rate of return on your money, invest in African art. There is a bull market for artwork from Africa right now and investing in, say, a Dogon fertility statue from Mali or a Dan mask from Liberia is a better bet than investing in blue chip stocks.

Around the world, gold and art are two commodities that are currently providing the best returns for investors.

In Nigeria, for example, the art market rose by 20 percent and has been making steady gains in the years after. African art is relatively a newcomer to the ‘investible assets’ market. After being ignored for decades, both antique and contemporary African works of art are now commanding high prices, and providing huge returns for global investors.

  1.  There is a growing appreciation of African art

Africa is a hotbed of creative artistic talent. it’s not only pre-historic antique African art that’s in growing demand. The demand for contemporary, modern African art is booming too. Everywhere you go on the continent, from Dakar to Accra, Banjul to Lagos, Nairobi to Kinshasa, Luanda to Johannesburg, it’s impossible not to notice the growing presence of locally-inspired African art, even in public open spaces like parks, walkways, streets and markets. With a distinctly young population (over 50 percent of Africans are aged below 30), there is a flurry of creativity, youthfulness and beauty in the air. More and more  young Africans are creatively using art as a form of expression to capture the realities and dreams around them through painting, sculpture, carvings and several other art forms. As a result, there is a huge supply of beautiful and unique works of African art on the market. Before now, tourists and the wealthy upper class used to be the major buyers of local African art. These days, Africans in the middle class have pitched in too. They are the ones who are becoming interested in, and buying, art that’s locally-inspired, beautiful and affordable.

Therefore, investing in the African art market (antique and contemporary) is very promising.  A foresight investor will invest now; one of them is a Nigerian art collector that own 7000 pieces of art; he started collecting art when he was in school. Most of its pieces, he purchases it at a lower price. Today the value of his pieces is in millions of dollars.


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