Two fairly constant complaints in African art circles are firstly that talented African artists and their work get picked up and swept away by the big markets in the US and Europe, never to be seen in Africa again; and, somewhat more embarrassingly, that SA doesn’t consider itself part of Africa when it comes to making and selling art.
Both of these historical gripes are being addressed through the agenda of a vibrant pan-African arts organisation, the African Art Galleries Association (AAGA). Established in 2016, it brings together galleries from all over Africa — including some from SA — to pool resources, opportunities and channels to grow the African art market for African buyers, collectors and institutions, rather than the established Western markets.
One of AAGA’s new initiatives uses the power of the internet, and the fact that most art-buying activity has moved online during the pandemic — to run an innovative sales showcase for African art. ‘African Galleries Now’ is a signature online-only sales showcase in partnership with Artsy — the leading US-based media and arts auction platform. Artsy’s online reach means that many galleries who have had to close or restrict viewing during Covid-19 lockdowns, and who may not have established client bases, have the opportunity to piggyback on an extensive global network of galleries and collectors.
The collaboration brings together a network of 12 AAGA members showcasing a selection of their artists and works over three weeks, starting on June 9.
The galleries represented are truly pan-African, from as far afield as Uganda and Tunisia, but SA is strongly represented by artists Aviwe Plaatjie and Wole Lagunju from Ebony Curated in the Cape, Tuli Mekondjo and Sizwe Sama Sibisi from Joburg’s Guns & Rain gallery, and Turiya Magadlela and Ayanda Mabulu from Kalashnikovv, also in Jozi.
Artworks can be seen in person at the galleries, or the full selection at African Galleries Now.