How is the online-migration trend (re) shaping the African art ecosystem(s)? | Art.co.za Art Blog
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How is the online-migration trend (re) shaping the African art ecosystem(s)?

Posted on 19 August 2020

How is the online-migration trend (re) shaping the African art ecosystem(s)?

The African art ecosystem has evolved exponentially over the last decade. The mid-noughties saw a spike in its growth, which has been sustained. Not that the evolution has been even; some African art capitals are in the early stages of their development. Some cities have yet to establish an art fair or even an art auction house.

Much of the growth of the African art ecology has taken place in the gallery sector and is directly linked to the democratisation and globalisation of the art market which art fairs - African boutique fairs, and other fairs in western art capitals - have facilitated. This has allowed gallerists access to a wider pool of avid collectors, which was necessary as in some African countries, art buying remains confined to a small group. Even in South Africa where there is a strong local collector base, the first tier galleries - Stevenson and Goodman Gallery - had to make in-roads into the global art market in order to grow their businesses.

The most immediate impact of Covid-19 has been the virtual 'migration' of live events, dealing and collecting. A recent survey conducted by Corrigall & Co , has found that the online versions of art fairs have been positive for gallerists. Yet some bricks and mortar galleries have either closed (Smith gallery in Cape Town) turned virtual or changed to a smaller premises at home. The online-turn has facilitated or encouraged new art entrepreneurs to enter the art ecosystem - with new dealers, collectives, platforms and art fairs popping up in a short-space of time. Some existing art businesses have pivoted to the online in unprecedented ways - opening up new opportunities for independent artists who have yet to enjoy representation and those that belonged to galleries that have closed.

All these exciting developments have been underpinned by an anxiety; can we grow new audiences and buyers of art in times of economic strife? This question is particularly pertinent in South Africa, where the Cape Town art market and growth of it in that city is directly dependent on tourists, and where the local economy is expected to contract quarterly by 50%. Will dealers be more dependent on buyers beyond Africa's borders, will this further skew the western-centric influence on art produced by Africans? What does a refocus on the local entail? Will the bricks-and-mortar spaces become less relevant?

The South African art market is adapting; the demand for art has lessened, some auction houses are offering lower valued contemporary art, and artists are producing 'cheaper art' in different mediums. How will all these shifts impact on the ecosystem in the long-term?

All of these pressing questions will be addressed during a revised edition of Masterclass: The Future of the African Art Ecosystem, which takes place on Zoom on 27 August at 17:30 (Johannesburg Time Zone).

It will be presented by Mary Corrigall, the prominent South African art critic, writer, art historian, and founder of Corrigall & Co, a Cape Town-based consultancy focussed on mapping, distilling developments in the African art ecosystems.

In this webinar she will drill deeper into the impact of the online-turn in the commercial sectors of the ecosystem. New statistics will be presented to further flesh out this shifting future that lies ahead.

Drawing from Contemporary African Ecology: A Decade of Curating , the masterclass will begin with an overview of the forces that have thus far shaped, driven and distorted the structure of the African art ecosystem(s) with reference to different art capitals on the continent.

Sharing their experiences and insights into the current state of the African art market, interviews with the following leaders will feature;

Masterclass: The Future of the African Art Ecosystem takes place on Zoom on August 27, 5.30pm (Johannesburg Time Zone). Space is limited. Tickets cost R470 and can be bought at Quicket

For more information visit www.corrigall.org


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