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.