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General News of Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Source: Nii Bonney Andrews

ARTcapital Breaks New Ground.

By Nii Bonney Andrews

An Accra based international art auction house called ARTcapital is to hold an auction of premium quality West African Contemporary Art.

The auction dubbed “Africa’s Turn” will be held on March 4th 2010. This is in concert with ARTcapital’s vision of becoming an international art auction house specializing in the modern and contemporary Art of West Africa and its Diaspora and focusing on the appropriate international recognition and support of artists who are from or are based there.

ARTcapital reports that “Africa’s Turn” will contain thirty contemporary sculptures, paintings, photographs and works on paper valued at over a quarter million US dollars. Several of the works have not been seen by the public for over a decade; they are from notable collections and estates.

These premium works have been selected in order to help create awareness of the scope and depth of the Art of West Africa and its Diaspora and to create enthusiasm and passionate interest in individual artists.

The online auction catalogue has been ready since January 1, 2010. It can be accessed at; a sharp, glossy hard copy catalogue is also available and is already a collector’s item.

It is expected that the auction format will result in a more equitable share of the proceeds from sales going to the artists. It will also assist in the compilation of an accurate working database to be used for fair market oriented valuation of the contemporary Art of West Africa and its Diaspora.

The works for sale with the highest estimate are the early- 1990’s iconic African hardwood and tempera panel sculptures by the Ghanaian born, Nigerian-based virtuoso- El Anatsui. These are expected to sell for 50, 000USD each. Most works in the auction range from 300-2,000USD each.

In October 2008, El Anatsui’s work sold for over 500,000USD at Sotheby’s in London. In December of the same year, a painting entitled “Underwater Still Life” by the late Benedict Enwonwu (Nigeria) surprised even the experts when it fetched just over 30,000USD at Bonhams in London, close to 20 times the high pre-sale estimate.

A spokesperson for ARTcapital noted in an interview that international art experts are unanimous in their belief that African Contemporary Art is certainly on the rise as evidenced from sales in the top auction houses of New York and London.

“There is an upswing in demand on the international scene where it is attracting a lot of attention from Americans, Europeans and South Africans”, noted Ms. Kelly- Chief Operating Officer for ARTcapital, “most contemporary African art is woefully underpriced and West Africans should start buying now before it is too late”.

Unfortunately, West African Art is yet to be fully appreciated on its home soil even though a few savvy and avant-garde West Africans (HECSOBANS) have long appreciated, acquired and promoted it. For these individuals, the art pieces have been a good investment- providing aesthetic value while appreciating considerably in monetary terms.

Last year Bloomberg’s Financial Service reported a 400% appreciation for contemporary African art between the years 2004 to 2008. This far surpassed most financial instruments.

For the uninitiated, the pieces of contemporary African Art brought to market by ARTcapital clearly break out of the stereotypical paper mache’ and wooden masks associated with African art.

Prof. Reggie Jackson- emeritus professor of Visual Anthropology at Simmons College, observed that, “a growing appreciation of fine arts in Africa is in concert with an increasing sophistication of the population and a rising awareness of the investment potential”.

Indeed, ARTcapital removes the African artist from his position on the periphery of the West and places him at the center of his own universe.

An Art consultant with a leading international financial brokerage house, Peter Biney, stated that, “it is important to educate people on the financial as well as the social value of art”.

He added that “Africa’s pockets of wealth are often buried in gloomy macrostatistics”.

ARTcapital therefore provides a unique opportunity for the larger public to acquire high-end contemporary African Art without paying a premium to galleries while at the same time putting more money into the pockets of the artists.

The auction will be preceeded by a two day exhibition of the art works. This will enable the larger public to see numerous important individual pieces- some of museum quality, that have been in private collections for over a decade.

Equally exciting is the prospect of sharing an intriguing, educative and historic afternoon and evening with Celebrity Auctioneers who are also aficionados of contemporary African art. At least 5% of the hammer price of each piece will be donated by ARTcapital to a charity designated by the celebrity auctioneers.

The writer is a neurosurgeon and an avid collector of contemporary African art

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