Contemporary art is more affordable than modern art but the former is riskier in terms of return on investment. So, is it better to invest in established names or emerging artists? We think both should be considered whether you want to build a portfolio or just collect a piece. In fact, the emerging artists often begin on the auction market at more competitive prices than in a gallery, while the established artists usually have several affordable pieces alongside their major works. In essence, those affordable pieces are mostly prints which could provide a safe investment. When they are produced in limited editions, this reduces the risk of losing value.
The contemporary African art market includes several generations of artists with some of those aged over fifty currently enjoying an international reputation. A dozen of successful African artists have broadened the field for potential buyers through signed and numbered editions. Yinka Shonibare and Julie Mehretu have both grasped the importance of diversify their works by creating limited editions of several artworks. For instance, you can find their works on Artsy or at some selected galleries. While the original might be very expensive, the limited editions remain affordable and could become ten times more expensive in future given the reputation of those artists.
Fake Death Picture (The Suicide - Leonardo Alenza) by Yinka Shonibare
Apart from the successful artists, other African artists are still undervalued because they are emerging or not well represented internationally. For some reason, until an artist is firmly established at auctions, he is not considered tradable in the art market. Fortunately, there are some exceptions with artists participating in international art fairs and biennials in order to make a breakthrough. People are more and more used to go to art fairs. They talk with art dealers and artists to discover new art they think have great potential. Alternatively, if they don’t like to trail around crowded art rooms, people can now do it in the comfort of their house, by using websites dedicated to promote African artists.
Couple Blessing by Pascal Kenfack
Furthermore, photography could be an excellent substitute within the range of affordable works of art. African photography is still emerging but photographic art is more and more representing a significant share during international events. Some well-established African photographers like Malick Sidibé offer their works at affordable price. Other talented photographers like Aida Muluneh exhibit their works at fairs and in museums to get an international visibility. If the photograph is a masterpiece and the print is of good quality, then the price will soar. Similarly, price is more volatile for recent artworks in terms of investment.
The 99 Series by Aida Muluneh
With more international art events and some artists whose works sell well at auctions, African art is still raising a bit of curiosity among art lovers. If you want to impress your friends and decorate your place with originality, you can buy African art. This is a way of investing your money in something that will not only aid an emerging artist, but has the potential to deliver a good return. Most importantly, if you want to build an art collection, you should only buy the artworks you love.
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