By Chinelo Chikelu
“50 percent of African Art Investors Are Nigerians, South Africans”
“There is Need To Nurture Younger Generation To Replace Veteran Artists”
In the past eight years, the world has witnessed an increased rise in the value of African arts, a trend that Ghanaian born but London based artist, art entrepreneurial and founder of the Creative Collective Gallery (CCG), Eric Amoakwa-Boadu, affirmed will likely continue in the next ten years.”
Why is the world suddenly interested in African Arts?
Amoakwa says African Art initially unaccepted as a form of academic art, now offers novelty, aesthetic appeal and affordability for collectors than some western art.
There has been an increase of collectors in the African Contemporary Art scene. By monitoring the global art market, they read trends â€“ like how African arts are gaining more appreciation from the west than before, and discern market shift. “When market shifts occur, it takes a while before it changes again. Hence, investors can project, following the increased value of the art for the past seven years, that they can retain yields, in the next ten years,” Amoakwa explains.
In addition, the rising number of art initiatives in Africa, coupled with the increased number of African collectors of African Contemporary Art boosted its value. Referencing a CNN report, the CCG founder said, about 50 per cent of millionaire collectors of Contemporary African Art are Nigerians, and South Africans. Further, with auction houses such as Bonhams in the UK witnessing 5 per cent sales increase since its venture into the contemporary African art in 2007, the world is eager to see more.
“When it comes to investment, African arts is more affordable. People invest quickly and the yields are visible. In the next 10, 20 years, collectors will reap the benefits.”
In 2016, the late Nigerian artist, Ben Enwonwu’s sculpted piece sold for £361,000. In 2017, at Sotheby’s first ever Modern and Contemporary African Arts sale, prominent artists like El Anatsuiâ€™s Earth Developing More Roots sold for £728, 750, Nigeria’s Yinka Shonibare MBE, installation Crash Willy went for Â£224, 750, while South African artist Irma Sterns Sunflowers went for £416, 750. Enwonwu’s Negritude painting sold for £72, 500. All sold above the expected prices, making them the hottest selling African artists in the global art market today.
With these veteran artists securing a place and interest for the African arts in the globe, how can Africa maintain the rising value of African Contemporary Arts?
One of the challenges to sustaining the genre, is the worrisome fact that the veteran artists are too occupied to guide the younger generation, and such guidance is necessary if they are to step into their predecessors shoes.
CCG is projecting the art of rising young African artists to the world. The gallery prides itself in two significant roles, the virtual promotion its young artists works, and the physical exhibition of their works at its gallery in the UK. This is achieved via strategic promotion of artworks to its specified collectors.
Eager to increase female artists contribution to the development of African arts, a population it beliefs, has more emotional connection to their creations’, CCG like (Science Technology) STEM, promotes female contemporary African artists to investors partial to collecting works by women.
“We accept works that are aesthetically pleasing, connects with the viewers, and tells a story on its own. Art is not just what you see, but the story behind what you see. These we do without stripping their artistic license,” he enthused.
Speaking on the global art market penchant for abstract art, which African contemporary artists are susceptible to follow, is it right that the world dictate to Africa, the salability of its art?
Amoakwa quickly noted that the lure of the abstract lie in its intriguing, subjective nature. Its audience either rely on artists interpretation or roll with its own comprehension of the art.
In contrast, his reflective response to reports of millions of dollars being pumped towards the promotion of African Arts at the globe, was cautious.
He doesn’t entirely agree with the idea, but says, if Africans are given such platform to tell our story, why not use it? “The traditional African art that had been at the forefront of arts scene were created in earlier times. In the next 400 years, the contemporary artworks of today, will be our story. We should do everything we can, now, to project what stories we are telling today. Our art I believe should be able to speak volumes about us. If there is a mechanism through which that story can be told, I would encourage that, because without money we cannot promote the story we are telling.”
“What I want to differentiate is that perhaps, rather than paying for the art, the monies are channeled towards building a mechanism of exposing the African art to the rest of the world,” suggested Amoakwa.
“While Africa should also focus on developing the Africans interest in the African Arts, it must work to debunk the myth, that Africa is a dark world, by showing the rest of the world that the continent is “full of colour, values, cultures and good stories. This can only be, when we show the world what we are made of.”
Telling The African Stories On New Platform
Younger contemporary African artists can effectively utilize the internet, a growing platform, in the promotion of their artworks, via email. Amoakwa suggests artists deploy strategic email marketing to those who indicate interest in their work online, as opposed to focusing on the lot that ‘like’ an art piece.
“Every artist should build a list of collectors, across your social media platform, such that when you post new piece or series of work, you do a direct email to these collectors that are more likely to purchase your art.”
A graduate of mechanical engineering, Amoakwa exhibited a flair for the art, at the age of 6, sketching images of his friends and family members, up until his secondary school. It wasn’t until his double breakdown in the pursuit of several entrepreneurial ventures at once in 2010, that he took a serious plunge in the arts. Seven years later, he had founded the CCG in London, aimed at promoting African artists.
Working largely with acrylic on flat surfaces, his works depict recurrent themes of people and places. He admits to a fascination of the human figure, and people’s relationship to their environment. “Everyone has a story to tell, particularly Africans; and how they manage whatever little resource accessible to create something great.” Such stories are reflected in his works: All That Jazz, and Abundance in Africa series. Overtime, the artist’s style and technique metamorphosed from brush strokes to include palette knife; creating a 3D and impasto effect, that lends youthful energy and vivacity to his art.
If he hadn’t been an artist, Amoakwa believes he would still function in the creative industry, likely the mechanical design engineering. Art, he smilingly averred, gave him an advantage over others to visualize whatever he wished to design, and communicate designs much better. “It plays a huge role in all sphere of life. Art makes us good communicators of ideas.”