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Contemporary African art rises to the occasion

CONTEMPORARY African art, long undervalued on the global market, broke through a psychological glass ceiling last week as patrons spent over 1,9 million euros at a South African fair.

The Joburg art fair, touted as the first of its kind on the continent, had over 6 000 visitors in three days and was declared a critical and commercial success by organiser Ross Douglas.
“We were expecting sales in the region of ten to 15 million rand, but we did a lot better then that,” he told AFP on Monday, saying collectors had forked out more than 25 million rand.
The cream of new and established artists from all over the continent were on display in SouthAfrica’s economic capital Johannesburg over the weekend, in a 5 000 square metre exhibition hall where buyers could choose among pieces ranging in price from 1 000 to five million rand.
The works on display were crafted in a diverse array of media as artists showed they were keen to break away from the stereotypical wooden masks and papier mache associated with African art.
A piece exhibited by the German-based Galerie Peter Herrmann, which showcasts predominantly African art, appeared at first glance to be nothing but a jumbled mass of rubbish.
On closer inspection the paper, bamboo and metal odds and ends shape themselves into an amputee victim — one of several pieces inspired by social issues like African poverty, crime and war.
Douglas said he was pleasantly surprised by the number of foreign buyers, mostly from Europe, who attended the fair.
They spent much more than South African collectors, who forked out between R50 000 and R100 000 rand on average. — AFP.

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