Value of African Art Jumps 200% In 4 Years To Record High Prices

By Kevin Mwanza Published: February 12, 2016, 8:07 am
"Arab Boy" by Irma Stern, private collection, Rupert Museum, Stellenbosch. Photo: Dana Sanchez"Arab Boy" by Irma Stern, private collection, Rupert Museum, Stellenbosch. Photo: Dana Sanchez

The value of African art pieces has more than doubled in the last four years as international collectors become more engaged in the market, Giles Peppiatt, African Art director at London-based auction house Bonhams, told Mail and Guardian Africa.

Bonhams delivered recorded prices for African art pieces — especially from South African artist Irma Stern —  and sold eight of the 10 top art pieces from the region over the last nine years.

“Offering the work in the international market in London has shown “western/northern” collectors the quality of this work and they have responded with enthusiasm [which has in turn] had a dramatic effect on the prices,” Peppiatt said.

The latest Irma Stern painting, the “Arab in Black”, sold for about $1.26 million at an auction in London.

According to Mail and Guardian, the picture was once sold at a fundraising to help the late Nelson Mandela pay for his legal defense during the fight against apartheid in South Africa.

“The flow of art in and out of London makes this the only place to sell if you want to achieve the best prices, record prices,” Peppiatt said.

“In the past nine years Bonhams has sold in excess of R1billion (more than $60million) worth of South African art.”

Buyers of such art pieces are spread from Africa, Europe, the US and the Far East.

“We have lots of collectors overseas, many of them with deep pockets. Lots of them are South Africans who have become true captains of industry in London and New York and Zurich.” Bonhams head of South African art, Hannah O’Leary, told BDlive.

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