African Contemporary Art Gets Increased Interest

People talk behind a sculpture by Zak Ove entitled "White Magic", an adapted Madame Tussauds wax work of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, with plaster skull and a wood base which features in the "1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair" at Somerset House in London, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013. African tribal art has long been treasured by wealthy Western collectors, but increasingly the continent

And the mood there is buoyant. “People are caring more in the press, collectors are opening their doors, and museums are showing more African artists,” said Mariane Lenhardt, whose Seattle-based M.I.A Gallery is selling fierce-looking, nail-studded busts by London-based sculptor Zak Ove. Bonhams auctioneer Giles Peppiatt, whose annual Africa Now auction took in a record 1.3 million pounds ($2.1 million) this year, said he has never seen so much interest. A man looks at “Exit Ball”, by Benin artist Romuald Hazoume, made from plastic and metal, which feat London now has four galleries focused on African contemporary art, three of them opening in the past three years: The more established October Gallery, an early champion of acclaimed Ghanaian sculptor El Anatsui; the Jack Bell Gallery, opened in 2010; the Tiwami Contemporary, a Nigeria-focused gallery that opened the next year; and GAFRA, only a few months old. The Tate, home to the capital’s best-known collection of contemporary art, launched an African acquisitions committee last year. Frieze, London’s high-end contemporary art fair, is this week featuring two African galleries.
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