Perhaps with all the troubles in different parts of Africa, art is not the highest priority, but art and civilisation go together; from the ealiest times, people have drawn and gained inspiration from art.
Alexa Dalby writing in African Business in January reported the comments of Ed Cross the African art expert on the rise of interest in African contemporary art: “While it’s still a ‘young’ market we have seen a sea change over the last few years and 2013 was, without doubt, a breakthrough year. With a large number of major firsts including the Tate Modern’s first shows for two contemporary African artists, the first London Art Fair for African contemporary art 1:54 which was hugely successful, the first online auctions for African Contemporary Art from The Auction Room and Artnet.
“Other firsts for African art include: the first time an African country, Angola has won the Golden Lion award for its Pavillion at the Venice Biennale: the founding of GAFRA Cork Street’s first gallery devoted to Contemporary African Art and finally the announcement in December 2013 that for the first time, the Venice Biennale 2015 will have an African as its chief curator – Nigerian Okwui Enwezor.
“Enwezor’s appointment shows just how far things have changed – it is ironic but no coincidence that he wrote about the phenomenon of globalisation in his 2009 book Contemporary African Art Since 1980: ‘Every indication we have of the current situation of global contemporary art reconfirms the important impact of geopolitical reorganisation of the global order.’ The growth that we are seeing now in the African art market is very much a consequence of these factors – which have both affected the global ‘gaze’ but also lead to the energising and self empowerment of artists from areas hitherto largely ignored.”
Growing interest in contemporary African art is reflected in the current exhibition “Pangaea” at the Saatchi Gallery in London which showcases the the work of 16 contemporary South American and African artists and the establishment of the Gallery of African Art (GAFRA) in Cork Street in 2011. GAFRA’s new exhibition “POP_UP AFRICA” in collaboration with the Is’Art Galerie (the only contemporary art gallery in Madagascar City) presents work by artists from Madagascar. This exhibition displays the breadth of artistic activity in that country. What is good to see is that these artists have reflected and built on their traditional artistic styles and motifs and have resisted the temptation to copy European art. The Royal Academy had an exhibition of Australian art last year; is it now time for one on African art?