The fast rising trend of Online Art Galleries in Africa

by Iweka Kingsley

In February this year, ‘Tutu’ a painting by the renowned Nigerian artist, Ben Enwonwu, was auctioned and sold for an African record of £1,205,000. It was auctioned in London and simultaneously auctioned in Lagos, Nigeria via a live broadcast, making it the first time that Bonhams, the privately owned international auction house in the UK, would do so, as well as sell a ‘Contemporary African Art’ in the evening.

Africa’s art industry, like in other parts of the western world, is beginning to embrace new ways of displaying and selling art.

Around the world and in Africa, art galleries, art enthusiasts and the art industry generally are exploring new ways to innovate and meet the consumers where they are. Online galleries are becoming a trend in the art industry, and the online marketplace is changing the game in a big way. Artwork for sale online is now considered a viable way to break into the elite gallery world. In Africa, an increasing number of online galleries are looking to attract young and first-time buyers, and opening a new market for emerging art talents.

The Hiscox online art sales report, prepared by ArtTactic, gives a breakdown of online platforms and sales, this was reported to have risen from just under $1 billion in 2013, to $3.27 billion in 2015, and set to rise further given the indication of dealers in the survey with just over two-thirds of dealers reporting that online sales channels will increase in future (both through their own websites and also through 3rd party sales). Based on this growth trajectory, the value of the online market for works of art is expected to be worth nearly $6.3 billion by 2019.

According to the Africa Art Market Report 2016, the global market of modern and contemporary African art performed strongly in 2016 with a with a sell-through rate of 72%, despite the slowing down of African economies. Several new online galleries and online art sales platforms have popped up across Africa, including Art635, a virtual museum and online gallery launched by a leading commercial bank in Nigeria, strengthening the art boom predictions for the continent.

Here are a few online art galleries to buy African artworks online:

  1. Unsung Art (South Africa) – is an online gallery that aims to provide talented South African artists with an established online platform through which they showcase and sell their original art.
  1. Artyrama (Nigeria) – dispenses with the intimidating white walls of a traditional gallery spacy by living completely online, allowing collectors to view and sell painting, photography and other media online.
  1. Banana Hill Art Gallery (Kenya) – is a contemporary African art gallery in Nairobi, Kenya. They provide paintings as well as sculptures packed with tales from the heart of the continent.

At this year’s “Talking Galleries” symposium in Barcelona, one of the core issues debated was the need for the industry to attract new audiences. Early in his remarks during the aforementioned mid-level gallery panel, TEFAF Chairman Nanne Dekking stated that “the art market is the only one where we’re not actively reaching out to the customers we don’t yet have.”

If most longtime gallerists, especially in the African market, continue clinging to familiar patrons and familiar methods for art display and sales, then the art industry will only “advance one funeral at a time.” But either way, the next generation – through innovations like online art galleries – appears ready to step up and reach out.


AUTHOR: Iweka Kingsley is the Founder/Publisher of Africa-OnTheRise.com

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