History was made in a 2013 auction in London when a set of sculptures by late Nigerian artist, Ben Enwonwu, fetched £361,250 (more than ₦175 million by today’s value), the highest bidding price ever for a Nigerian artwork. The price paid for the art work was not only historical but also reflective of the growing value and appreciation of Nigerian art.
Over the years, observers and curators of Nigerian art have seen a steady growth in this cultural sphere; Art House Contemporary Limited, an auction house based in Lagos have noted that works of art bought at their very first auction, back in 2008, have grown up to 10-fold in value today.
Antique African art isn’t the only sphere of artwork growing as contemporary African art has also been growing in demand. British auction house, Bonhams, has seen an average price increase in 5-fold — to about $50,000 (₦17,975,000.00) — since it started specializing in contemporary African art in 2007. The auction house further affirmed the rapid growth of contemporary African art in this statement;
“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.”
The world art market is a multi-billion dollar industry, and though African art is still a small fraction of this, it is very evident that African art is set to grow into an explosive worldwide phenomenon.
The factors driving this growth include an expanding global appreciation for African art and the rising number of dollar millionaires. This development shows a promise for both artists and art entrepreneurs. Keeping in stride with the times, marketing art online is set to be the next big thing.
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 grow to the sum of $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. 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.
In March 2014, Sotheby’s, a key art auction house, announced a new partnership with eBay, the online giant, as part of a redesigned online auction strategy.
And where is Nigeria in the booming multi-billion dollar online art trade market? Guaranty Trust Bank, which has an extensive collection of art in its headquarters, is also championing the works of artists through its virtual gallery on art635
As Nigeria’s economy rises from the ashes of the recession and continues to grow, and as the spending power of the average person increases with more Nigerians entering the middle class, the demand and appreciation for Nigerian art, especially modern and contemporary works, will continue to grow.
This would be good for the nation as thousands of young and talented people can earn a living from their art creations. It would also be beneficial for investors and entrepreneurs who can exploit the lucrative opportunities in this fast emerging industry.
What do you think about the potentials of African art? How do the industry get investors in? We would love to hear from you in the comments section below.