ArtMarketGuru’s founder Frédéric de Senarclens talks about their new report on African art’s main collectors.

ArtMarketGuru launches the African Top Collectors Report. Art Radar talks to Frédéric de Senarclen about the report and its key findings.

Portrait of ArtMarketGuru Frédéric de Senarclens.

Portrait of ArtMarketGuru Frédéric de Senarclens. Image courtesy ArtMarket Guru.

ArtMarketGuru offers a 20% discount on the purchase of the African Top Collectors report for Art Radar readers for two weeks from today. Scroll down for details.

ArtMarketGuru is a website that offers analysis and region-specific research on the global art market. Founded in 2017 by Swiss art dealer Frédéric de Senarclens, ArtMarketGuru defines itself as an alternative source of art market research, analysis and statistics.

The first report released by ArtMarketGuru focused on the Southeast Asian art market, a region the founder knows well (de Senarclens founded and ran Singapore’s Art Plural Gallery between 2011 and 2016, and in 2016 he founded ArtAndOnly, a platform for art collectors). This fourth release from ArtMarketGuru, entitled Africa Top Collectors (December, 2017) includes extensive lists of African art collectors, containing the major buyers across the continent.

Art Radar talks to Frédéric de Senarclens about ArtMarketGuru, this new report’s key findings and what it means to say African art is “hotter than gold”.

This is the fourth report to be released by ArtMarketGuru, and it focuses specifically on the African art market and its collectors. What kind of image of the African art market does the report draw? Are we seeing an upturn or downturn in the African art market?

We are at a very interesting crossroads for the African art market where traditional, tribal art is gathering as much attention as contemporary art coming out of the region. In recent years, there have been expansions of interest in African art both within Africa and in the wider international art world. Across the world, sales of African contemporary art at auction have risen substantially, with sales of top artists combined with more emerging and relatively unknown artists across the region.

Africa is developing at a rate far steeper than that of other markets. The number of millionaires in Africa rose dramatically between 2000 and 2014, at a rate of 145% according to New World Wealth. This increase has fed the luxury economy of Africa, which in turn has fuelled the art market of the region. There are definite upturns in the African art market and a growing interest amongst collectors the world over. There has been particular interest emerging from the region itself, with African collectors dedicated to supporting and promoting African art and culture.

The report focuses on the collectors themselves. Where do the majority of collectors of African art hail from, and to what extent is the dominance of Northern European and North American collectors giving way to a more diverse selection of African art enthusiasts and collectors?

That’s a great question. The European Summit are set to meet this year to discuss the return of looted African artefacts to their original regions, with political figures and stalwarts of the arts leading the way in re-establishing African heritage that has been appropriated in the Western world. One major example of this is French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent call for the restitution of African artworks currently held in France, an act that will have a great impact in the art world. A number of wealthy African businessmen and women have passionately fought to bring African art collections back to Africa and support museums and organisations that strengthen the artistic economy of the African region.

I think really there are a few angles to consider with this, one is the politically engaged stream of wealthy African art collectors who wish to put Africa first when purchasing contemporary art, ultimately helping to promote African culture. There are also a few European patrons engaged in supporting these actions, helping to invest in emerging and established talent from the region. Both of these elements combine to strengthen the current African art market. An example of this patronage comes from Congolese art collector and businessman, Sindika Dokolo, son of renowned African bank owner and art collector, Augustin Dokolo and husband of Africa’s richest woman, Isabel dos Santos. Among other actions aimed at promoting African art and culture, Dokolo started the Sindika Dokolo Foundation with the aim of promoting local arts and culture festivals, and creating a centre for contemporary art in Luanda (Angola).

Birds Eye View of Cape Town. Image courtesy ArtMarketGuru.

Birds Eye View of Cape Town. Image courtesy ArtMarketGuru.

What other findings were particularly unexpected?

Overall, the report provides a good overview of the key players such as Serge Tiroche, Robert Devereux, Sindika Dokolo and Theo Danjuma among many others, with insights into key collecting habits and associations with prominent museums and foundations. As part of this, the reader can start to see the interconnected nature of the art market, but you’ll have to read the report for further insights!

Could you tell us about how the information was gathered and verified this time? Who headed the research team?

ArtMarketGuru work as a team to provide the best in-depth research possible, researching and verifying information through various tools, from insight reports to interviews with collectors. As founder of the company, I have direct experience from living in Luanda and managing an important tribal art collection as well as contributing to the publication of L’Ame de l’Afrique.

On the website, ArtMarketGuru features a quote from a 2016 CNN article declaring that African art is “hotter than gold”. This statement makes a rather concerning link between art investment and the mining of gold as part of the 16th century colonial economy. Should we assume that you agree with such analysis that departs from a link between 16th century colonialism and 21st century finance economics? In your opinion, to what extent can we endorse practices of art investment that see a mirror image of themselves in colonial extraction?

It’s an interesting comparison, but we don’t share that view and rather see the statement as an expression of the fact that a lot of collectors, gallerists and auctioneers are looking at African art as a place to find future leading figures. Just as gold, real estate and bonds are viewed as financial asset classes, and art has recently emerged as a collectible asset by itself under this same classification. In this way, the comparison between art and gold is meant first and foremost as an expression of the interest in art as something financially valuable yet still inherently tied to flux in the market. Just as gold is being bought as an investment opportunity, so art is seen as being something that accumulates wealth as collections and interest in the artists grow.

Rebecca Close


ArtMarketGuru is offering a promotion for Art Radar readers of 20% off the African Art Collectors report. Send a link to this article to ArtMarketGuru citing the discount offer when purchasing the report. The offer is only valid for two weeks from the date of publication of this article.

Related Topics: African art, market watchcollectorsbusiness of art, reports

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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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