Mapping private collections in Africa
South Africa benefits from first and second-market structures, as well as a strong cultural dynamic that relies mainly on the implication of collectors : the financier Paul Harris, the entrepreneur Bruce Campbell-Smith, the banker Gordon Schachat and the Rupert family. These personalities, who conceive and invest in foundations and museums, are inseparable from the South African contemporary art scene. Another example would be the german collector Jochen Zeitz, former CEO of Puma, who will strengthen the country’s cultural scene in 2017 with the inauguration of the Zeitz Mocaa (Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa). The museum, which comprises over 9,500 square meters in the historic Grain Silo building, in Cape Town, will focus on giving visibility to contemporary artists from Africa and its diaspora. Nigerian prince Temisi Adedoyin Shyllon is also a well-known figure in the African art world for being a key promoter of his country’s artistic scene. Through his Omooba Yemisi Adedoyin Shyllon Art Foundation, he has donated 1200 artworks to the Pan Atlantic University, which are to be exhibited in the Yemisi Shyllon Museum.
We can also observe the presence of influencing collectors in African countries that are less developed economically or with rising GDP growth rates : in Benin, the former Prime Minister Lionel Zinsou opened the first West African contemporary art museum at Ouidah in 2013; it is supported by the eponymous foundation located in Cotonou, which is directed by his daughter Marie-Cécile Zinsou since 2005. The museum features works from its pan-African collection involving artists such as : Samuel Fosso, Kifouli Dossou, Cyprien Tokoudagba, Gœrges Lilanga, Mickael Bethe-Selassie or Romuald Hazoumé who exhibited at Larry Gagosian’s Le Bourget gallery in 2016. In Angola, the collector Sindika Dokolo owns one of the main African contemporary art funds, gathering artworks from german Hans Bogatzke’s collection, which he acquired in 2003, and the Revue Noire photographic archives.
Besides creating the Sindika Dokolo foundation in 2005, the collector has sponsored the Luanda Triennial in 2006 and the realization of an African pavilion for the 52nd Venice Biennale. Dokolo’s collection, which is estimated to consist of more than 3000 pieces, includes works by African artists as well as pieces by Andy Warhol, Miquel Barceló or Nick Cave. In Morocco, the Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden (MACAAL), which is dedicated to artists from the continent, inaugurated in 2016 with the support of collector Mohamed Alami Lazrag, CEO of Moroccan real estate group Alliances.
The panel of influencing African collectors we have mentioned is also enriched by Ghanaian Seth Dei, Senegalese Sylvain Sankalé and Bassam Chaitou, French Gervanne and Matthias Leridon and British Robert Devereux; these collectors´ initiatives embody a global approach to art, which is also present in Jean Pigozzi’s or Jean-Paul Blachère’s pioneering collections.
The African biennials dynamic
Among the dozen biennials that have been registered by the Biennial Foundation in 2017, many are lacking a relevant public support. For instance, the Johannesburg Biennale, which was founded in 1995 by the Ministry of culture, was discontinued after two editions while the Benin Biennale was only active in 2010 and 2012.
Dark’Art, the oldest African biennial which was created in 1989, has difficulties covering its expenses on each edition. In 2016, the Senegalese Press Agency reported a funding of 630 million CFA francs (about $1 million) for the event, however part of it was used to settle the debts of the previous biennials, a measure that has become a pattern in the event’s management. The Rencontres de Bamako, a biennial organized by the Malian Ministry of culture and the Institut français, is dedicated to photography and video since 1994. After interrupting its activity during three years due to the political crisis that took place in 2012-2013, the Bamako Encounters reappeared in 2015. Despite the support of the King and other significant sponsors such as Maroc Telecom and Holmarcom, the Marrakech Biennale (founded in 2004 under the name Art in Marrakech) has difficulties raising its funds for each edition. It should be noted, however, that this event benefits from a much larger budget than the other biennales; according to its executive director Amine Kabbaj it received around $1.5 million for its 6th edition.
Although it seems clear that these events do not receive a strong political support in general, they are encouraged and promoted by a group of personalities who are very active both on the national and international art scenes. Some examples would be Niger-American Okwui Enwezor, curator of the 2015 Venice Biennale and Director of the Haus der Kunst in Munich; Simon Njami, co-founder of the Revue Noire, curator of the 12th Dakar Biennial as well as the exhibition You love me, You love me not (Portugal), who is also in charge of the exhibition 100% Afriques capitales at the Villette in 2017; and Bisi Silva, curator of the 10th edition of the Malian Biennale, the 2006 Dakar biennials and Thessaloniki (Greece) in 2009, who also founded the Centre for Contemporary Art in Lagos. These key actors actively defend and export African national identities.
The African galleries’ expansion
The rising participation of African-based galleries at international art events reflects the Western interest in the African continent and its dynamic set of actors.
At the forefront, we find South African galleries Goodman Gallery (founded by Linda Goodman in 1966, and then bought by Liza Essers in 2008) and Stevenson (created in 2003 by Michael Stevenson). These galleries are involved in major art fairs such as Frieze and Art Basel; they represent both local and international actors and manage exhibition spaces in Cape Town and Johannesburg. Both cities are African artistic centers, concentrating a majority of its galleries such as Everard Read Gallery (founded in 1913, it is the oldest in South Africa), Hazard Gallery, AFRONOVA…
Throughout the continent, committed young galleries are energizing the African cultural scene. Rabek Size and Mesai Hailelu, directors of the Addis Fine Art gallery, created in 2013, support modern and contemporary Ethiopian artists. In Kenya, the Circle Art Gallery, founded in 2012 by Danda Jarolimek, concentrates on local works which are then exported around the world during fairs such as Armory Show and Art Dubai. Some galleries focus on emerging artists; it is the case of the First Floor Gallery Harare, a major Zimbabwean platform created in 2009 by Valérie Kabov and Marcus Gora. Other galleries exclusively support local artists that work on a particular field such as Galerie 127, which opened in 2005; its director Nathalie Locatelli is primarily devoted to the promotion of Moroccan photography on the global scale. We can also observe the emergence of a regional approach to the art market, which has been adopted by galleries from different countries by joining forces : based in Senegal since 1996, the Galerie Atiss Dakar travels through West Africa with an itinerant exhibition project in collaboration with the Malian gallery Chab.
Outside the continent, media coverage involving contemporary African art continues to develop, particularly since the great itinerant exhibition Africa Remix (2004-2007) ; a trend that has also been stimulated by preponderant exhibitions such as Beauté Congo presented in 2015 at the Fondation Cartier, or Seydou Keita at the Grand Palais in 2016. In France, the tendency will expand in 2017 with new Parisian events organized by Art Paris Art Fair, the Louis Vuitton Foundation, the Galeries Lafayatte group for Galerie des Galeries, and the multidisciplinary festival 100% Afriques at la Villette. It is also worth noting that the Tate created a committee for the acquisition of contemporary African art in 2012, reaffirming the West’s interest towards its developing art scene. The organization of international events centered on African art in Africa and abroad, and the active involvement of prestigious institutions, added to the growth prospects of the continent, are leading to the exposure of several countries’ local art scenes’ development at the international level.