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Growing Interest Prompts Increased Demand For African Art In The UAE

Eleven up-and-coming artists from the Democratic Republic of the Congo recently showed their work in a week-long exhibition named "Breaking the Mold" at a warehouse in Dubai's arts quarter. The title alludes to the artists' attempts to break free from the constraints of their academic training; they were all former students of the Academy of Fine Arts in Kinshasa, the capital of the DRC.

Arlette Bashizi, a photographer, was one of the featured artists, as reported by Arab News. Self-portraits from her "Re-construction" series challenge misconceptions and preconceptions about black, African women. In his piece "Nefercongo," multidisciplinary artist Chris Shongo raised Congolese women to the rank of Egyptian queen Nefertiti, to whom he attributed the lineage of African women.

There were numerous first-time African artists in the recent Abu Dhabi Art show, indicating a growing interest in African art in the UAE.

For instance, after participating virtually in 2020, Kavita Chellaram's Kó, an art space in Lagos, Nigeria, participated physically for the first time.

From Cape Town, THK debuted at the fair by showcasing a solo booth by the artist Abdus Salaam, whose sculptures exhibit what the museum calls a "mystic abstraction."

For the second time, the Kampala, Uganda-based Afriart Gallery took part, displaying works by Ugandan artists Mona Taha and Sanaa Gateja with prices ranging from $4,000 to $30,000.

The Ghanaian family Valentina, Kwame, and Kobi Mintah formed the Efie Gallery, which is a more enduring institution in the UAE art scene. It just commemorated the one year since it opened in Al-Khayat Art Avenue in Dubai. The Akka Project, the first African art gallery in the city, debuted in 2016. Efie Gallery has so far held seven exhibitions including the renowned Ghanaian sculptor El Anatsui's first solo exhibition in the city, and a joint exhibition with UK auction house Christie's that included El Anatsui's artwork alongside quickly rising Ghanaian artists Isshaq Ismail and Yaw Owusu. The rising interest in African art on the global art market has contributed to Efie Gallery's success.

African art has gained popularity, with sales rising by 44 percent in 2021, from $50 million in 2020 to $72 million last year. Contemporary art galleries around the world becoming more eager to exhibit pieces, according to a recent edition of ArtTactic's Modern and Contemporary African Artist Market Report, which examines auction sales between 2016 and 2021.

“The Art of Advocacy”, an exhibition of photographs by Ethiopian photographer Aida Muluneh, will be presented at Efie Gallery next and will run from January 12 through February 24.

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