Next Chapter: Inquiries into emerging art practices

 Next Chapter: Inquiries into emerging art practices

© Mohamed Arejdal. Qui Tiandra L’Afrique Tiandra Le Ciel. In-situ installation. Morocco, 2012. Photo by Younèes Baba-Ali.

As we reach the midway point of 2014, one of the highlights of this year has undoubtedly been the resurgence of the African art market. Many will argue that it has always been present but one cannot ignore the expansion of the market on an international scale with everyone from the Telegraph to Arttactic, the BBC to CNN having covered the considerable rise in stock of the African market over the past year. This coverage combined with the Tate’s new dedicated Africa wing, Cape Town’s role as World Design Capital, the 11 iteration of Dak’ Art, Africa’s premier biennial and the announcement of the new Museum of Contemporary Art Africa in Cape Town are perhaps the clearest indications of the continued growth and significance of the critical nature of art being produced on the continent and by the artists working in the diaspora.

There is no doubt that the continent has a long tradition of art making, thanks to the creative culture of various tribes throughout the countries of Africa and the impact of contemporary African art which dates back to a global boom experienced in the 60’s. However, in the 21st century and driven by a new generation of contemporary artists, various regions throughout Africa are pioneering new reputations for themselves thanks to the critical nature of work emanating from and inspired by countries within these regions.

With events like Angola’s award for best national pavilion at last years Venice Biennale, it is no wonder that contemporary African art is to grow in value and is becoming a sought after market for institutional and financial investment. This recent heightened awareness has led to the African art fair 1:54,  opening in London in 2013 with the second edition coming on the back of the 5th annual contemporary African Art auction at Bonhams.

Perhaps most interestingly about this resurgence is the interplay between international practitioners and people on the continent. Art Dubai 2013’s regional focus “Marker 2013” used mirrored economic growth in Dubai and Nigeria as an impetus for a survey of the five most active art scenes in the west African region, which became the largest presentation of work from this region in the Middle East.

As various countries around the world, such as Germany and England, continue to invest, support and champion the work being done by African artists, people on the continent are rising to meet that support. Art advisor Bomi Odufunade reiterates this sentiment highlighting that, “… a new generation of seasoned African collectors have emerged across the continent.” Therefore there is an immense sense of pride, about what is happening in countries located in these different regions across Africa and that stems from the input of African people working on, funding and supporting the continent.

But with all this buzz about Africa and it’s artwork, the biggest question that arises is what does all this mean for the next generation of artists? Will all this attention turn into programs providing previously unattainable resources? Will this lead to a greater emphasis on art-based education? And will young emerging artists begin to receive the exposure their work deserves?

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© Mohamed Arejdal. Qui Tiandra L’Afrique Tiandra Le Ciel. In-situ installation. Morocco, 2012.

The emerging art sector must be considered the most pivotal for the sustained growth of an artistic discourse, whether in relation to a contemporary movement or a particular region’s artistic tradition, as it is made up of the next generation of artists and yet they are a group often overlooked in favour of those more established. Emerging artists provide the exuberance to question the norms and inspire a youthful rejuvenation of the discourse in turn becoming the most significant element in ensuring the longevity of a rapidly growing and developing art scene in their respective locales, because as described by the Jerome Foundation- a non profit supporter of emerging artists in the US- they are the principal creators of new work.

With such a crucial role to play, it is important that what is happening in the arts with regards to financial investment and heightened exposure, filters down to these young emerging artists, ultimately giving them a platform to enhance and advance the critical strength of art being created on or influenced by the continent.

When considering the impact of the current heightened awareness in Africa art one must remember that each region on the continent contributes a unique understanding and approach to the discourse. Each region, made up of countries that often share physical proximity, colonial heritage and sometimes even religious and cultural affiliations, have different structures, resources and education available for artists and most importantly each has their own approach to fostering and promoting emerging artists.

Consequently over the course of the next three months Another Africa will present a series titled Next Chapter that focuses on a group of countries in three regions of the continent, southern Africa, northern Africa and western Africa. The series will attempt to provide an invigorating survey of the current conditions, education and resources available to young emerging artists in these regions on the continent. Next Chapter will include interviews, in depth discussions with, and reflections from, practitioners on the continent and those in the diaspora, all with the intention of highlighting the work being done by emerging African artists and making sense of what the impact of this African resurgence means to this new generation of artists.

 

Written by Houghton Kinsman.

 

Images courtesy of Mohamed Aredjal. All rights reserved.

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