African art

20 African photographers to look out for in 2018

2017 has been quite the year for contemporary African art! And the market just keeps going from strength to strength.

We fell in love with many contemporary African artists from Toyin Ojih Odutola  to Yaw Owusu to Ndidi Emefiele and more!

And we are going photography crazy in Africa! It is not difficult to see why as artists capture the beauty, the grit and the rawness of our great continent. 

So, in no particular order, check out 20 talented African photographers that we believe are going to be even bigger deals come 2018:

1. Lakin Ogunbanwo

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2. Siaka Soppo Traoré

3. Colin Delfosse

4. Fouad Maazouz

5. Farida Hamak

6. Eyerusalem Adugna Jirenga

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7. David Uzochukwu

8. Nicola Brandt

9. Joana Choumali

10. Osborne Macharia

11. Nobukho Nqaba

12. Girma Berta

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13. Safaa Mazirh

14. Mauro Pinto

15. Mohau Modasikeng

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16. Ishola Akpo

17. Kudzanai Chiurai

18. Eric Gyamfi

19. Hicham Benohoud

20. Justin Dingwall


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Record for Njideka Akunyili Crosby at Sotheby's New York

“I think of myself as a woman, an Igbo woman, a Nigerian, an African, a person of colour, an artist, and the fascinating thing is that the layers I add to how I identify myself changes over time; it just keeps broadening as I move further out into the world” - Njideka Akunyili Crosby

 Lot 26  Njideka Akunyili Crosby  Drown, 2012

Lot 26

Njideka Akunyili Crosby

Drown, 2012

A new auction record was set for the Nigerian-born artist Njideka Akunyili Crosby in New York last week when “Drown” soared to sell for $1,092,500, over three times the high-estimate ($200,000-300,000), in Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Sale. No fewer than eleven bidders competed for the work that eventually sold to an anonymous buyer on the telephone.

This was the second time in less than two months that the auction record for Njideka Akunyili Crosby has been broken at Sotheby’s. The previous auction record for the artist was $93,750, set by her “Untitled” work from 2011 at Sotheby’s New York in September 2016.

‘Drown’ is an intimate self-portrait of the artist with her husband, Justin, and demonstrates beautifully how the layers of Njideka Akunyili Crosby’s work reference the layers of her own identity.

In May next year Sotheby’s will launch its first dedicated sales of “African Modern and Contemporary Art” in London, led by Hannah O’Leary, Sotheby’s recently-appointed Head of Modern and Contemporary African Art.





ART WEEK LDN '16 From Bonhams to 1:54 with a touch of Frieze

The busiest time of year for art lovers hit the capital and I came, saw and conquered Art Week and its festivities (just about!)

Kicked off by the champagne popping, Bonhams 'Africa Now' fashion, music and art  event held in association with Standard Chartered Private Bank, The Dangote Foundation and Cuppy Otedola - this Art Week was set to be bigger and better than years past.

Contemporary African art was the focus - of course - and 1:54 Contemporary African art fair officially stole the show with artists such as Moffat Takadiwa, Zak Ové, Namsa Leuba and Aida Muluneh as its stars.My itinerary was centred around 1:54 so I was a busy bee meeting artists, curators and buyers at organised shindigs such as the collector's breakfast and cocktail evening parties.

I also managed to pop into Christie's Vanity Fair Contemporary Art Party that was heaving with the bold and the beautiful. A Lynette Yiadom-Boakye piece took my breath away and it was wonderful seeing not only African art but also a female African artist displayed at the British establishment. Perhaps Chrsitie's will finally follow suit after Bonhams and Sotheby's and have a contemporary African art department? (watch this space).

Frieze I found disappointing this year. Once again, the lack of African artists was obvious and it is somewhat embarrassing that the fair still refuses to recognise that contemporary African art is a growing movement. Having two South African galleries is not a good enough representation of the current art market! Thanks goodness for 1:54 I guess.

Favourite evening was most certainly Gallery 1957's party at Momo that saw everyone (my boss included) on the dance floor shimmeeing to hits by the beautiful and talented Wiyaala; and old school Destiny's Child tracks. 

Christie's hosted an exclusive evening together with Zeitz Mocaa (Africa's first major museum of contemporary art, opening September 2017) with talks from 'Mr Mocaa' himself, Jochen Zeitz. 

The Gallery of African Art wound up the week's activities with a cocktail evening showcasing the works of Momar Seck and closing statements from artist Victor Ehikhamenor, and fabulous gallery owner, Mrs Cooper.

It has truly been a wonderful art week, and rest is much deserved by all! Check out photos and videos of all I got up to below:



Bonhams 'AFRICA NOW' Event



Collectors Breakfast and Private View @ Somerset House

1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair '16



FRIEZE and Gallery 1957 cocktail evening @ Momo

1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair '16


 Fun @ Frieze 

Fun @ Frieze 

 "The Young Lioness of Africa"  WIYAALA   

"The Young Lioness of Africa"  WIYAALA



Gallery of African Art (GAFRA)

1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair '16


Till the next one! 




Do Africans understand the value of art?

Once the momentum has gone... it will be a sad story - Paul Onditi 

My father sent me an interesting article that was in the FT by Catrina Stewart on the growth of art in Nairobi.

In it, she spoke with Paul Onditi, one of contemporary African art's more successful artists who has exhibited in New York, London and across Africa. Onditi spoke honestly about his struggle as an artist living in Europe, and his relatively new growing popularity in the art world, explaining that it wasn't until he returned home to Kenya that things in his life started to change for the better. It may have been great timing, because 10 years ago when Onditi first left Kenya there was no place for art except 'tourist art' pieces. However, like other parts of Africa, there is a growth in interest in contemporary art work and the shift from traditional sculptures and paintings is significant as artists push boundaries and try to compete in the worldwide art market. 

But it is arguably not fast enough. Yes, there is quite obviously a love and appreciation that did not exist for African artists before, however, it is not yet common place for galleries to have an African artist on their books. One still has to be a 'niche' gallery or buyer specifically for African art in order to sell or have exhibitions. Yes, some of the biggest names in art have exhibited a Shonibare or Anatsui piece here or there - but they are few and far between. Onditi believes that this is because Africans do not support African art and do not yet understand the concept of investing in art work, and there may be some truth to his argument.  

Currently, art publications and critics have quoted statistics that say that the biggest buyers of contemporary African art are South Africans and Nigerians due to them being the wealthiest African citizens. Makes sense, however, I am now beginning to question where these 'stats' came from. Within South Africa and Nigeria, locals do indeed buy art, but it is not a lot, nor is it often. Buying art is still for a minute percentage even within the elite classes because most rich people in those countries would rather spend their money on a house, or car, or boat or fuel! Plus, one cannot forget the current economic turmoil occurring in Nigeria especially. The 'suffering yet smiling'  mantra taken on by many Nigerians is a reality. Why would people invest in art when there are bigger problems to tackle? Lack of food, water, living conditions etc all of which are fair points. So who is buying contemporary African art I wonder?  

Collectors, and I mean REAL collectors of contemporary African art are rare. Most end up being gallery or museum owners themselves (Zietz springs to mind) others amass wonderful collections in their homes to be forever looked at, never truly knowing their worth (my father for example). As one of the few contemporary African art cheerleaders, I have noticed that although Africans are enjoying the growth of interest, it isn't necessarily them that are buying into it. These events, exhibitions and parties that are attended are sometimes for socialising sake. I have asked owners honestly if art work is ever bought, and their answers are always the same: "a few, but not enough" or 'yes, by my loyal collectors'.

So why is this the case? 

A friend of mine, a successful,  young, West African man in the investment banking world, recently purchased a new home in London. Kudos! Still decorating and getting it ready, he called me the other day for art advice. He was in one of the few African art galleries in London and had seen a painting he loved (the artist in question was Babajide Olatunji who is a growing art superstar right now) but my friend was fretting about committing to buying the piece, and I couldn't understand why!

 Babajide Olatunji | Tribal Marks series II, courtesy of TAFETA Gallery

Babajide Olatunji | Tribal Marks series II, courtesy of TAFETA Gallery

He seemed to believe that  it wouldn't  be ' a great investment' to buy it and although he loved it, he would rather get something more 'established' from another non-African gallery. This, of course, greatly upset me! However, I could see he called for information so I asked him why he thought that investing in African art was a bad idea. After a few "ummms" (may I just say, this is the man who at work is so ON IT but now couldn't even give it to me straight) he answered:

'I don't know.. does anyone really care about African art though?'

Mon Dieu, what a sad thing for an African man to say to me.  

I spoke to him about the growing support of African art and threw out numbers for certain artworks sold at amazing prices from El Anatsui to Peju Alatise,  Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Aboudia and whoever else I could remember on the spot. I explained that although slow, contemporary African art is most certainly a good investment and quoted Bonhams African Art Director, Giles Peppiatt as a credible source who has seen artists and work worth literally pennies now being sold in the 10s and 100 thousands in just a few years. 

I did not manage to sway my friend that day unfortunately - the uncultured so and so! -  although the painting in question was sold a few hours later I was told so, it is his loss. Although, I have to admit it is indeed a shame that we do not support our own more. I have been to countless art exhibitions in London, New York and even LA where new, emerging and 'unknown' artists are the thing du jour. There is something exciting about investing in someone no one 'knows' about yet especially those that are on the cusp of being a big deal. It is like watching your money triple before your very eyes!

We do this for other artists in other markets and other countries - why not back home? 

What will happen, as it does in many other sectors, is others will see the potential (at this rate the Brits), invest, run with it, and then it'll be the African locals who will be complaining that talent has been 'stolen' and demanding retribution. Perhaps instead of waiting for contemporary African art to be what the world wants, we take a chance and join in the movement now in its exciting baby stages rather than regret it later? This is the time to buy and invest while it is cheap! While we can get it from the source itself.

It is going to hurt a lot more when that young artist from your village who had a small pop up exhibition last year that you didn't care for, is now auctioning their work at Sotheby's for an amount worth more than your car.... the nice one. Just saying. 

Support the arts.