Africa’s contemporary art market
Globalisation over the past few decades has shown a correlation between the emergence of new economies and the development of an art market and the cultural industries. This is clear to see in China and India, for instance, and the self-same trend is already materialising in Africa, where there are buoyant economies, despite major disparities.
Contemporary African art is art’s last big emerging market. The market has been growing for a decade, driven forward by several initiatives, namely the launch of specialised fairs, contemporary African art sales at auction houses, museum collections incorporating contemporary African art, and the creation of galleries representing African artists at the continental (Magnin-A), sub-regional (Cécile Fakhoury), and national levels (Angalia).
And contemporary African art has not yet finished catching up. The catch-up effect is set to continue and consolidate over the coming years. However, despite this buoyant context, the vast majority of African artists are still coping with a harsh economic reality, notably because the local market remains small.
The key issue of funding emerging artists
This issue is even more challenging for young artists at the start of their careers. They are rarely able to live from their art, because they are yet to enter the market, and need time to assert their style and develop their technique. This is particularly the case in DR Congo, a country known for its vibrant arts scene, but in which there is a persistent economic crisis, and the local art market is extremely limited. Owing to a lack of adequate resources, talented young artists are likely to give up and devote themselves to work that generates an immediate return. Consequently, the early years are a crucial period for them.
In this context, galleries wanting to launch young artists have no choice other than to help them financially. It is simply not an option to sell on consignment; a modus operandi that involves only paying the artist once works are sold. The gallery has to prefinance artists, or buy their works before putting them on sale. However, it does not necessarily have the resources needed to do this.
This is the thinking behind Ébalé. Ébalé is a model – and a unique one, to the best of our knowledge – in which the gallery commits fully to launching an artist, while outsourcing the funding of the artist’s early career. In practical terms, Ébalé buys the works of young artists identified by Angalia, which provides them with a substantial income for one to two years. The artworks are ultimately sold on at a price that ensures the fund’s financial viability.
Ébalé and Angalia – a mutually beneficial relationship
The art market is inherently speculative and poses a clear capital risk. The risk may be further increased for the African market because it is far from having reached maturity. This is why an initiative such as Ébalé needs to be based on a professional stakeholder. It is vital for investment security and quality.
Angalia has been in the art market since 2011, and has raised the profile in the European market of a first group of artists who have now reached full maturity. Thanks to Ébalé, the gallery is now able to identify a new generation of artists who are gradually joining the gallery. And this is how Ébalé nourishes Angalia, just as Angalia nourishes Ébalé by managing the fund free of charge.