Curating Contemporary African Art

El Anatsui - Man's Cloth © Peterson Kamwathi
El Anatsui - Man's Cloth © Peterson Kamwathi
Photo of Culture Trip
24 August 2016

With its specialist knowledge of the contemporary art scene, Ed Cross Fine Art in London curates collections of quality African art, including work by artists like Cyrus Kabiru, Ismaila Manga, Soly Cisse, and Dominique Zinkpe. Curator Ed Cross explains the recent boom in art from the African continent and provides tips for any budding collectors.

El Anatsui – Man’s Cloth | © Peterson Kamwathi

Ed Cross Fine Art Ltd is owned and managed by the artist and curator Edward Cross, who spent over 20 years in Kenya working in publishing and art. The business was established in 2009 to promote sales of high quality contemporary visual art from the African continent. Artists featured include Peterson Kamwathi, Michael Soi and Cyrus Kabiru from Kenya, Soly Cisse and Ismaila Manga from Senegal, and Dominique Zinkpe from Benin amongst others.

African art is a growing, increasingly significant and exciting part of the global art scene. Powerful collectors, leading museums and auction houses are now turning their gaze towards art emerging from a continent that is destined for major economic growth over the next twenty years. A number of artists from various African countries from Ghana to Ethiopia have seen the value of their works increase dramatically. A number of very serious artists have emerged, producing works of brilliance and international contemporary importance.

Ismaila Manga

Contemporary African Art

‘Contemporary African Art’ is a broad category covering very different works from a continent that displays exceptional cultural diversity. Shared cultural values and a sense of community are central themes, and most art from the continent is informed by the tradition of artist as storyteller and commentator in the service of their societies. Accordingly contemporary visual art plays a significant role in the development of African nations and their cultural and economic prosperity. As individual countries make their presence increasingly felt on the international scene, we are likely to see the falling away of the ‘continental’ category and art from the African continent will increasingly be looked at by country or by region.

Contemporary Art and Social Responsibility

Contemporary art from the African continent is often concerned with socio-political issues as art and artists play an important part in national dialogues about the strengthening of human rights and good governance.

African Contemporary Art as a Cultural and Financial Investment

Whilst contemporary African Art has appreciated by approximately 350% since 2002, some artists have experienced even more spectacular rises in value. Indeed, contemporary African art may prove to be an excellent investment and there will be significant increases in value as more galleries, individuals, corporations, foundations, institutions and governments participate in its development. London’s Tate Modern, amongst other leading international museums including New York‘s MOMA, are now devoting significant resources to the African art scene. The Museum for African Art in New York City is another great venue.

Choosing Wisely

The African art scene can be confusing. There are few specialist galleries and auctions can be relatively rare. Also the artwork produced can vary widely. Increased global interest in contemporary African art has spawned some opportunism and artists whose work may be fashionable at present but may not be valued in the future. On top of this, authenticity can sometimes be an issue. A specialist dealer like ECFA provides an expert, bespoke service for customers seeking to collect African Art, whether they seeking a single piece for a private home or are planning a major collection.

By Ed Cross
Special thanks to Ed Cross Fine Arts

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