LIFESTYLE

Gaurav Bhatia Sotheby’s Ex MD on Contemporary African Art making waves in the Global Market

In the last five years, the African art market has started thriving. More and more African artists, as well as Art collectors, are coming forward and working with world-famous auction houses such as Sotheby’s, Christies and Phillips. Gaurav Bhatia Sotheby’s Ex- MD , and LVMH now heading Maison India gives us a snapshot on the new horizons of African Art.

Demand for the African art world over has been on the rise since the last decade. People have started recognizing and appreciating the magnificent talents residing in the aforementioned continent. One of the world’s largest brokers of fine and decorative art, jewelry, real estate, and collectibles, Sotheby’s started an African contemporary art auction that has been tremendously successful in the past few years.

In the recent African contemporary art auction, the majority of the works were grabbed by African collectors even though most of the bidders hailed from Europe and North America.

Gaurav Bhatia, CEO Maison India, Ex- Managing Director Sotheby’s believes this to be the beginning of a phenomenal shift in the global African art market. The rise in the numbers of native collectors and their choice to buy local art for once reflects their willingness, preferences, and value for African art.

Mr. Bhatia also sees prominent signs of the increasing importance of African art and the opening of the market and museums in various parts of Africa.

The onset of the pandemic definitely had an impact on the art markets and auction houses as they were abruptly told to switch the sales online, like all other businesses in the world. The otherwise perceived to be “horrid situation” ended up working in many new art markets’ favor as the switch to the online platform, opened up a world of digital enthusiasts and young collectors.

Online-only sales widened the horizon of the African art market and a new world record was also set when a sculpture by a first appearance artist (Atlas by Nigerian artist Ben Enwonwu) got sold for $519,826. In March 2020, just three days after the lockdown within the United Kingdom, Sotheby’s modern and contemporary African art sale went live online. The sales were shocking, to say the least, the auction brought in £2.3 million ($2.9 million) in the end.

“This can be considered a turning point for the African art industry. With the inception of fantastic art schools, increasing numbers of high-net-worth individuals combined with the expeditious urbanization Africa’s art market will have plenty of room to expand,” said Gaurav Bhatia, Ex – MD Sotheby’s and LVMH, who now helms his own luxury cell and is an ardent collector of art.

Luxury market analyst, Gaurav Bhatia also highlighted the fact that fairs like 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair are definitely having a positive impact on the growth of the community as this fair holds events in Megacities like London, New York and have recently expanded to Marrakech providing a chance to the African people to participate.

Where the growth of the African Art market is concerned it is impossible not to mention the high-powered emerging art capitals. Accra, Cape Town, Dakar, Addis Ababa, Lagos, and Marrakech are some of those. Successful international artists such as El Anatsui, Ibrahim Mahama, and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye (who, although born in London, is of Ghanaian origin) have contributed majorly to Ghana’s progression in the world of art.

According to Gaurav Bhatia, CEO Maison, schools such as Alle School of Fine Art & Design one of Ethiopia’s most important art institutions will motivate and teach the budding artists of the country to follow their passion and fulfill their dreams.

Passionate art collector and known as a “man with the eye,” Bhatia would like nothing more than the African Art market getting its due recognition and appreciation. With more spaces being created for under-represented African artists, he is hopeful of a majorly successful breakthrough in the upcoming years in the art capitals of Africa which would set a course for growth beyond the imagination.