By John Owoo
In Dakar – Senegal
Courtesy – Royal Air Maroc
Simon Njami, curator of the 2018 edition of the Dakar Art Biennial, has stated that Africa does not posses the tools to promote its contemporary art at this point in time and called for massive investment in this direction.
Speaking at a lecture on “Creating Value for African Contemporary Art” at the Théodore Monod Museum for African Art in Dakar, Njami noted that Africa needs decent art, collectors, writers, galleries, infrastructure and venues to promote contemporary art in order to attract appropriate value for its art.
“Without these and other appropriate structures, contemporary African art will continue to be invisible – indeed we need to make efforts at increasing the number of African galleries that are able to participate in international art fairs”, he said.
Moderated by the former director of Dak Art Biennial Ousseynou Wade, Njami expressed concern that infrastructure that host the few biennials in Africa tend to lie fallow in between biennials and called for their effective utilization in and outside biennales.
Adama Sanneh, Chief Operating Officer of Moleskine Foundation, said market of African contemporary art is mainly a perception adding that the perceptions say it will grow. He stated that the figures relating to the marketing of contemporary art in Africa is not encouraging but the trend is positive.
He reiterated the point that more curators, galleries, African collectors, investors, data transparency and infrastructure among others are critical to ensure that Africa gets the right value for its contemporary art.
“Mainstream investors rely on data and most African artists are not tracked by data – thus it’s an important area that must be tackled while we put in place mechanisms to stimulate local consumption of artworks”, added Sanneh, who is also a gallerist.
Participants emphasized the need to adopt the “Market Stall” approach while courting government and private sector support, which is present in many developed countries. The issue of constructing storages to house artworks equally attracted the interest of participants.
Undeniably, African art accounts for a very minute portion of the international art market with African artists being treated like outsiders. Nevertheless, the demand for works from Africa has greatly increased over the past decade.
With the growth of African economies, patronage of African contemporary art is set to continue rising. Indeed, with wealth popping up from the telecoms, agriculture and oil / gas sectors in several African countries, local consumption is set to increase.