What's Happening?

African Art Ascending



Interest in African art is on the rise and as the global art market recognises the value and potential of African art, its market value is expected to increase even further.

There is significant change happening to the African art market and although the rate of growth cooled a bit during 2023, demand, prices and internationalisation are still growing.

When referencing the African art market, this includes art made by African artists and the auction houses, exhibitors and dealers who represent such artists, whether in Africa or elsewhere.

Current state of play

Despite ongoing turmoil in the financial sector, high inflation, the continuing impact of three years of Covid-19, and the ongoing effects of the war in Ukraine, 77% of HNW collectors remained optimistic about the art market’s performance over the next six months, according to The Art Basel and UBS Survey of Global Collecting in 2023, a slightly larger share than those who were optimistic about the stock market (74%).

The average allocation to art in wealth portfolios fell to 19% in 2023, from a peak of 24% in 2022.

2023 did not deliver the long anticipated and hoped for turnaround, largely due to unfavourable macroeconomic conditions. Given the likely turbulent 2024, growth is being predicted at 4%.  Collectors in volatile economies may continue the demand for work from US$ denominated artists as a currency hedge and easily moveable asset.

African art on the rise

Experts say the global art market is worth close to $68 billion. According to research firm ArtTactic, work by African artists exceeds a combined annual auction worth of $72 million (more than double its 2016 value).

While these are positive first steps, the African market still has a way to go in reaching numbers more equitably representing the creativity of the African population.

As the global art market recognises the value and potential of African art, its market value is expected to rise even further. The investment in contemporary African art is not only a testament to its aesthetic appeal but also an opportunity to contribute to the flourishing African art scene.

Contemporary African art has emerged as a vibrant and lucrative investment opportunity, offering both financial rewards and cultural enrichment. Its growing market value, cultural significance, and social impact make it an appealing choice. There is a strong demand from collectors both on the continent and abroad.

Collecting African art is not only a wise financial choice but also a social investment that supports the growth and success of young emerging artists. Established artists command higher prices and sell their works at auctions, attracting seasoned collectors. However, investing in emerging artists provides an opportunity for individuals with a lower purchasing power to acquire valuable artworks. As these emerging artists gain recognition, their art appreciates in value, benefiting both the artist and the collector.

Something for everyone

There is something for everyone in African art, from the naturalistic styles from East Africa to the abstract and geometric designs of West Africa. African art often serves as medium for social and political commentary, addressing issues such as poverty, gender equality and human rights, which sparks important conversations and advocates for positive change.

Enhanced global recognition of African art is reflected by its growing visibility on the international stage.

Several fairs dedicated to African art now take place in the northern hemisphere. 1-54 Art Fair, which began in London in 2013, now holds three annual fairs in London, New York and Marrakech, alongside a pop-up in Paris. One third of the 62 international exhibitors at this year’s 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair at Somerset House in London were from the African continent. The Venice Biennale opted for an African curator, Okwui Enwezor, who has ensured that his show includes more African artists than ever before, acknowledging the important role that African art plays in shaping the global artistic landscape.

Africa-born artists are consistently featured and their works permanently exhibited in some of the world’s most influential galleries: The White Cube gallery in London houses a collection by South African figurative painter Cinga Samson; the work of Nigerian photo-tapestry powerhouse Njideka Akunyili Crosby can be enjoyed in many of the most important galleries on both sides of the Atlantic, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Tate Modern in London.

Works by the following ten African artists are especially popular among wealthy art collectors the world over:

  • El Anatsui – Ghana
  • Alexander Boghossian – Ethiopia
  • Ben Enwonwu – Nigeria
  • Hassan El Glaoui –Morocco
  • Omar El Nagdi – Egypt
  • Sydney Kumalo – South Africa
  • Julie Mehretu – Ethiopia
  • JH Pierneef – South Africa
  • Gerard Sekoto – South Africa
  • Irma Stern – South Africa


Local scene

Locally, the Investec Cape Town Art Fair, FNB Art Joburg, Turbine Art Fair and Latitudes Art Fair serve as platforms to showcase the thriving creativity of African arts.

The art movement is now supported by a resilient infrastructure of African institutions and exhibition spaces, giving creators a reliable domestic platform from which to attract and expand international interest.

Zeitz MOCAA and the Norval Foundation were crucial milestones in the country’s ability to offer strong artistic platforms. In the heart of the city of Cape Town, Zeitz museum offers a world class experience of curated magic, while just a half-hour drive from the Cape Town CBD, The Norval Foundation is in the beautiful suburb of Tokai and features breathtaking sculptural displays. These two major museums in Cape Town have been instrumental in improving the prevalence of African art on the world stage.

The global art market has recognised the value of African art and there is universal admiration for African artists’ ability to continually push the boundaries of creativity and innovation. It serves as a reminder of the extraordinary power of art to transcend borders, bridge cultures, and unite people. The future looks bright for African art and the continent’s many innovative and talented artists.