African art “coming-of-age”; demand for the Middle East continues with spotlight on Iran as economic sanctions lift.

Continuing with our two-part summary of ArtTactic’s “Global Art Market Review & Outlook 2016” report, Art Radar brings you key findings concerning Africa and the Middle East.

Roya Farassat, 'Goddess of Freedom' from "A Mirror Has Two Faces" series, acrylic, ink and marker on paper, 9 x 12". Image courtesy the artist.

Roya Farassat, ‘Goddess of Freedom’ from “A Mirror Has Two Faces” series, 2013, acrylic, ink and marker on paper, 9 x 12 in. Image courtesy the artist.

Spotlight on Iran: Lifting economic sanctions

According to the Report, Iranian, Lebanese and Egyptian art dominated in 2015. 75 percent of Christie’s recent sale in October 2015 was accounted for by artists from these regions, while at Bonhams, modern Iraqi artists accounted for 42 percent of total sales.

ArtTactic awards the Middle East a neutral-to-positive outlook for 2016, with a slight downside risk. The research firm’s survey reveals concerns about the market over the next 12 months, with war, terrorism and geo-political tension cited as the main reasons.

The spotlight is however on Iran, where economic sanctions are being lifted. ArtTactic writes:

[The] Iranian art market could see a lift in 2016 […] economists and market commentators expect strong economic growth in the country in the years to come. We believe this could fuel the already active domestic art market, and further strength- en Iranian artists’ position in the international art market.

El Anatsui, 'AG + BA' (detail), 2014, aluminium, copper wire and nylon string, dimensions variable. Photo by Jonathan Greet. Image courtesy the artist and October Gallery London.

El Anatsui, ‘AG + BA’ (detail), 2014, aluminium, copper wire and nylon string, dimensions variable. Photo: Jonathan Greet. Image courtesy the artist and October Gallery London.

African market coming-of-age; auctions to enter

Currently, Bonhams is the only global auction house dedicated to African modern and contemporary art. ArtTactic predicts that on the back of Bonhams’ success, Phillips, Sotheby’s and Christie’s could start to dedicate new sales to the region. The Report awards the African modern and contemporary art market a neutral-to-positive outlook for the next 12 months, stating that:

With prices of high quality African modern and contemporary art selling in the $10,000 to $50,000 range – it offers new and existing collectors an attractive entry into this new market.

Omar Victor Diop, 'Frédérick Douglass', 2015, pigment inkjet printing on Harman By Hahnemuhle paper, 90 x 90 cm. Image courtesy Magnin-A.

Omar Victor Diop, ‘Frédérick Douglass’, 2015, pigment inkjet printing on Harman By Hahnemuhle paper, 90 x 90 cm. Image courtesy Magnin-A.

A notable development in the African art market in 2015 was the arrival of the corporate art collection of Afren, a London-listed oil drilling company, into the market. 100 works of art from the collection was reportedly sold through Bonhams in October 2015, raising an amount of USD575,000.

Another key milestone in the continuous opening up of the African art market was the expansion of leading contemporary African art fair 1:54 to New York. After a successful two editions in London, 1:54 launched its inaugural US fair in New York in May 2015. The fair revealed its exhibitor list for its May 2016 second edition last month. Speaking to Artnet, Julie Taylor, Founder and Director of online South African gallery Guns and Rain, says:

African art is perhaps ‘becoming ordinary […] If ‘ordinary’ equates to securing the independence, recognition, and respect that African art professionals have long sought, then African contemporary art is certainly much closer to coming of age.

Michele Chan


Click here to read Art Radar’s ArtTactic Global Art Market Outlook 2016 – China, India and Southeast Asia

Related Topics: African artists, Iranian artists, Lebanese artistsreports, auctions, market transparency, market watchresource alert

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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