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Senegal: Why is the art market slow to take off

Art is slow to spread in Senegal

Dakar is the capital of contemporary African art for a few more days. The city continues to live on to the rhythm of editorials and performances.

However, Le Quotidien, who has conducted a survey on the subject, notes that this effervescence very little reflects the state of the sector suffering from the outlook given by ordinary Senegalese.

In fact, with the exception of a select few, very few artists manage to sell their work regularly. In the land of the late Leopold Sedar Senghor, protector of the arts par excellence, art no longer nourishes man.

Artists are always more talented, some hobbyists are happy to collect their work and new galleries are popping up all over the place.

But then should we talk about an art market in Senegal? The answers diverge. Curator and technical advisor Mohamed Amin Cissé sees this.

“If we start from the principle that the market is a specific product, with someone offering that product and someone wanting to buy it, then yes, there is an art market. There are many contemporary artists and in front of people people are buying. Then, it is not an organized market, it is a market that is not yet mature, developing Little by little,” he confirms.

For art critic Aliou Ndiaye, on the contrary, it is not possible to speak of an art market because the prerequisites, a well-organized artistic environment, permanently exhibited galleries that have a real identity, are absent.

This was confirmed by Dr. Babacar Mbaye Diop, Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar and Director of the Higher Institute of Arts and Cultures (ISAC).

“A real art market presupposes a legal framework with the laws that govern this market, experience with antiques dealers, brokers, consultants, gallerists, auctioneers, art dealers, gallery owners, art critics, etc., and the promotion of works of art through institutions Commercial, auction houses, galleries, museums, art galleries, festivals, biennales, magazines, art magazines, etc. I am not saying that all this does not exist in Senegal, but all these professions that revolve around art and the art market are sorely lacking in Senegal.

It must be said that the heart of the global art market beats far from our skies. Dr. Diop asserts: “The real market for African art is outside the continent, and more specifically in the West.”

According to figures, only 8% of collectors are in Africa. The 2016 Global African Art Market Report, founded by art dealer Jean-Philippe Aka, estimates that between $300 and $400 million investment by antiques aficionados in African art, with buyers between South Africa, Nigeria and Morocco.

Among the largest Senegalese buyers, the name of the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Consortium d’entreprise (Cse), Oumar Sow, comes up very often.

Considered the greatest collector in the country, he recently collaborated with Biby Seck on the Galerie Quatorzerohuit sur Ponty. And some do not doubt that the great masters of the West are in his collection.

“Today, in the art market, it is necessary to be in Paris, New York and London. These cities are symbolic because in them we find the largest auction houses of contemporary art,” emphasizes Aliou Ndiaye. There are Drouot, Gaïa and Cornette de Saint-Cyr in Paris, Christie’s and Bonhams in London, Sotheby’s in the United States, Strauss & Co in Johannesburg, etc.

Evaluation, a must

Africa is still rich in artists and major cultural events. African Art Biennale in Dakar, Barcourt, the various biennials organized across Africa, in Lubumbashi, Brazzaville, Marrakech… are contributing to the promotion of an increasingly attractive art sector and is now seen as a market in which artworks are exchanged according to well-established standards.

“The more we are certified by the international, the higher it will rise,” notes Mohamed Cissé. Thus gives the example of Badou Jack, this young artist whose coastline continues to rise.

Alioune Diack, Badu Jakk in the name of his artist, represented here by OH Gallery and in France, Anne de Villepois, a large gallery. He had very large exhibitions and in very good collections. But it would be difficult for the Senegalese to collect Aliou. His paintings start from 10 thousand euros. Her Big formats, that’s right, but they can very quickly reach 20 or 25 million CFA. However, he is a young 34-year-old. But it has been validated in the West.

It must be said that these exhibitions and biennials organized in the West are the main selling places for African artists. According to Aliou Ndiaye, 50-60% of their sales take place at contemporary art fairs such as Foire 1-54, a traveling exhibition of contemporary art organized between Paris, London and the United States.

Equally appreciated, Soleil Cisse who exhibited his work at the Grand Palais in Paris. He made the Divine Comedy that made the five continents and in this way the rating of the artist is fixed. In what group he is, in what exhibition he held, at the exhibition – a sale or a biennial.

The artist’s work could cost one million dollars on March 16, on March 17, it is collected by the Museum of Art in New York (MoMA) and sold for 10 million, confirms Mr. Cisse.

“It is a set of criteria. First, the nature of the artist’s work, the discourse that accompanies it. There is also the artist’s fame, the extent to which he is treated in national and international media, sales, and the galleries in which he is signed,” adds Aliou Ndiaye.

In this classification exercise, the names appear regularly for Senegal: Soleil Cisse, Ndari Lou, Ousmane Sow, Awa Sene Camara. But on an African level, the top-rated artists are Cameroonian, Ghanaian or Nigerian. Like Nigerian El Anatsui, whose works amount to $1 million, or Kehinde Willey, who appears in the Top 500 list compiled by Artprice Report and who set up the Black Rock artist’s residency in Dakar.

Near the house, Mohamed Cisse cites the names of Soleil Cissé, Badou Jack, Ndari Lou, whose works have already been sold for 800,000 euros, Barthelemy Togo, Ouattara Watts and Amadou Sanogo.

Female artists rarely appear on these lists. In an article published on Ashkan, Khadi Ghadega questioned the place of women in contemporary art, denouncing the “underestimation of women.”

Thus, living male artists occupy 93% of the world’s top auctions. Although there are more artists today and a few major dealers attempting to correct price disparities, the undervaluation of women resists in the contemporary scene. Yayoi Kusama, the most expensive of the fairer sex, ranks 34th as the best show after 33 male records. On top of that, it’s clear that this Women’s Best Offer is ten times less than the Men’s Best Offer and a nearly $47 million gap separates Koons’ record from Kusama’s!

As for artists who have not yet had access to this international market synonymous with luxury and success, they can always cut their teeth among art galleries investing locally in the search for new nuggets. Even if again, the result is not guaranteed.

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