Investing in African Art
One of the many gifts my parents gave me at an early age was a love and appreciation for African art. My parents, eons ahead of their time, began collecting African masks and sculptures in the 1970s. I recall being so excited whenever they introduced a new item into our house. I was mesmerized by the intricate wood carvings with their unique designs, colors, and styles as well as the fascinating countries that they came from. I am eternally grateful that my parents ignited this flame within me. Forty years later, and I'm still just as excited about discovering and purchasing contemporary and antique African art pieces to add to my collection. Equally exciting is that my passion for African art is shared all over the world by collectors who find value not only in African art's aesthetic, but also its overwhelming investment potential.
A recent CNN article explored the popularity and emergence of contemporary African art as a viable investment. According to the article, "Sotheby's, whose auctions currently combine African and Oceanic art, took in an "outstanding" $84 million in 2014, compared to just $4 million a decade ago. They are now considering specialized sales for African art alone." Due to this thirst for African art, several African artists are fetching six figures for their work.
From November 1 - 10, Sotheby’s will also showcase Bowie/Collector, an exhibit of over 350 works, including contemporary African art pieces, from the private collection of legendary musician David Bowie. Following a trip to Africa in the 70s, David Bowie confessed that he was “mesmerized by the spontaneous and ever changing panorama of this continent’s [Africa’s] artistic experiments.” Bowie would continue to purchase works by African and Black American contemporary artists. One piece by Jean-Michel Basquiat, "Air Power," is featured in the Bowie/Collector exhibit and is believed to be one of the most valuable pieces in Bowie's collection. It is believed to sell for $2.5-$3.5 million.
Although the potential for financial investment in collecting contemporary African art is an added bonus, the value for me rests mostly in the aesthetic beauty and the opportunity to communicate cultural history. Art informs us about society. It is beautiful and can stir all kinds of emotions in the viewer. It also can provoke us to answer questions that we sometimes didn't know we had or learn things we never thought we wanted to know about. Displaying these pieces in my home, not only makes it look great, but I'm also able to help advance the knowledge and criticism of art. This to me, is more valuable than anything.