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African Art

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Why Black Art Should Be Part Of Your Investment Portfolio

With the increasing knowledge that art is a viable alternative asset, the rising interest in art by Black artists, coupled with the number of ways we can now invest in art, “Black art”, or African & Diaspora art should be considered as part of your investment portfolio.

A huge advocate of this asset class is art collector and entrepreneur, Freda Isingoma. Freda is the founder of KIISA, an investment & advisory firm focused on developing investment solutions for the Contemporary African & Diaspora Art market and ecosystem.

We caught up with her to learn more about investing in art and why she is so passionate about supporting the work of Black artists around the world.

What inspired you to start KIISA?

KIISA started as a response to a need and a gap that I identified in the African and Diaspora art market. Although my background is in investment banking and entrepreneurship, I have always loved art and have been collecting African & Diaspora art for 20 years. My collecting journey gave me an insight into the market and its dynamics.

black art
Alexis Peskine – Paris

This then prompted me to do a course on “Curating Contemporary Art” and the University of the Arts London, which gave me a bit of background on the more research element of the art world. It’s then that I started to further investigate the African and Diaspora art ecosystem as a whole and really understand what the gaps were.

Keyezua – Angola

After many conversations with mentors, I am glad I got to where I am now, where our focus is on developing a new “story” around African & Diaspora art investments and ecosystem development, and I get to leverage my skills and experience in finance, art collecting, and economic analysis.

KIISA is a pioneer in the Art Investments sector, providing investors with the opportunity to participate in Alternative Asset Funds that are intentionally designed to not only provide long term returns, but also develop impact solutions that drive the growth, visibility, knowledge, and sustainability of the Contemporary African and Diaspora art market.

Amy Sherald – America

Why do you prefer the term “African & Diaspora Art” over “Black Art”?

Many in the art world use either or. I specifically use African & Diaspora Art as it suggests the global footprint and impact of the Black artistic community, history, culture, identity, language, and much more. Ultimately, art made by Black artists is simply art.

Why is there a growing interest in African & Diaspora art? 

The interest in African & Diaspora art has always been there and that’s evident by the fact Classic African art influenced Early European and American Art movements including Cubism, Fauvism, German Expressionism, and American Modernism. We see this in the works of Picasso, Matisse, and Gaugin to name a few.

Furthermore, there has been interest in Modern and Contemporary art by Black artists over the years, but the main issue is that the interest has largely been shallow and inconsistent. The current spotlight on art by Black artists has mainly been generated by a wider interest from the Black community to collect art and be part of cultural economic growth, particularly the younger generation of collectors.

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Victor Ehikhamenor – Nigeria

While we have always had collectors within the Black community globally, there has been this misconception that art by Black artists is in main collected by Europeans and other non-Black communities. This is simply not true. The current wave of new collectors that are framing the new dynamic, is being driven by the acknowledgment of art collecting as a way of building cultural equity, preserving heritage, and also participating in an alternative investment growth story.  

Saying that, there has been a rising focus on Black artists by Western art museums and institutions post the protests in the US and globally last Summer. This is due to the fact that many of them were forced to finally face the racial disparities in their collections and programming and at the same time address this bias within the Western art cannon overall. If you ask me how much impact this will make, the jury is still out. There has been more virtue signaling to date, than measurable action. 

Lina Iris Viktor – United Kingdom

Why is it important to increase the number of Black people investing in African & Diaspora?

Any community needs to be the bedrock and foundation of their art ecosystem and cultural expression. I often draw similarities to the Chinese Art market emergence during the last global economic downturn 12 years ago and the intentional build of what is now a dominant art market player.

Although we are dealing with 54 countries and a global diaspora base, Black collectors are realizing that they are an essential part of the art ecosystem as a whole. If we look at art as a language and a way of telling the stories that document our cultural history and current social and political dynamics, it makes sense that these pieces of cultural documentation (and pride), inherent to your own cultural background, are collated and kept. In doing so, it builds a legacy of cultural heritage preservation, that will be shared with, and inform generations to come. 

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Goncalo Mabunda Maputo – Mozambique

The other significance in Black collectors taking a greater interest in building cultural equity ownership through collecting art, is that its organically spearheading this wave of new initiatives, collaborations, and technology focused on facilitating growth within the art economy.

Not only will this intensify the much needed demand for art by Black artists, but it will also transform the number of ways in which we invest in it. Furthermore, collectors are not only custodians of art, many are also patrons. Greater patronage makes sure that art/educational institutions and cultural centers continue to serve the local community adequately.

black art
Ndidi Emefiele – Nigeria

What roles can Black owned galleries and museums play in strengthening the market for African & Diaspora?

Black owned galleries and museums on the Continent and Black communities globally, play a vital and critical role in the growth of the African & Diaspora market. We are at a pivotal time in Africa’s artistic history where the repatriation debate is gaining momentum, and additionally where the demand for Modern and Contemporary African & Diaspora art has caught the attention of the art world.

Fundamentally, art museums are shared public spaces dedicated to promoting and educating on artistic and cultural knowledge, while preserving the heritage and artistic integrity of the local community. As a result, they form the foundational pillar of any cultural ecosystem. Therefore, it’s imperative that the community from which the art, the practice, and narrative originate, are also the primary validators of that art. This should not in any way stop the art from being shown, celebrated, engaged within other regions and nations.

Black owned galleries also play an important function too. They not only serve as a powerful portal to communicate the narrative of the artistic production from the community, they cultivate and reinforce a dynamic arts culture and economy that promotes the local artistic talent. This is essential, as it supports the growth, and investment of, artists within the Black community.

Additionally, they in turn nurture the development of collectors and art practitioners (e.g. curators and secondary market advisors), which is a critical component of the ecosystem development. Furthermore, galleries naturally then become procurers of ancillary services in adjacent and complementary businesses/industries in their local communities, as well as attracting “art” tourism, which can be catalysts for economic growth and infrastructural development within that community.

Underplaying the importance of Black owned museums and galleries hinders the empowerment of home-grown narratives and talent, while subsequently weakening the advancement of the domestic artistic community. 

black art
Fahamu Pecou -America

What are the first steps to becoming an art investor?

There a few ways in which you can invest in the art market. The obvious way is through building a collection. My advice is always to just start. Once you start, you get to sharpen your eye and taste, while at the same time learning more about the industry, its nuances, peculiarities ad possibilities.

I am a fan of “burning shoe leather”, whether it’s in person or virtual, through attending Art Fairs, studio visits, galleries, auctions, Art School final year shows, and even residencies. Routinely doing this helps to build relationships with artists, curators, dealers, and other collectors, that help to inform how to build your collection. Building a collection of significance can be fun, but it does take time to really define your taste, demystify the dynamics of the market and build relationships.

There’s no cheat sheet for this. The key is to buy what you love, that way you won’t look back and have any regrets. Do your research, then buy with your eyes and heart, not your ears, because trends in this market come and go just like any other industry.

The other ways to invest in the market are through art investment vehicles, which include art funds and syndicates. The last 12 years has seen a significant increase in the number of art investment vehicles launched because art typically produces returns that have little or no correlation to traditional stock and bond investments.

There was a recent study done by Morgan Stanley that showed that HNWIs have between 5-10% of their net worth invested in art. This is not surprising as alternative assets tend to be seen as a safer way of diversifying the overall risk of your investment portfolio, particularly when stock markets are overheated or/and volatile.

Furthermore, investing in art offers tax advantages, potential hedging against inflation/currency risk, and tends to hold its value over time irrespective of economic sentiment. Structured art investment vehicles offer an opportunity for investors to pool their investment with others, thereby diversifying their exposure to individual art holdings while increasing their exposure to a wider variety of art. Furthermore, they present an opportunity to benefit from the expertise of art investment specialists who understand how to operate in what is generally regarded as a potentially lucrative, but non-transparent market. 

The other channel is through Bitcoin. I am quite excited to see what impact Bitcoin will make in the market, and how it can democratize investment in art. Although the impact is still too small to measure, I believe it has the potential to be revolutionary, particularly for Black artists and Black investors in art. Currently, there are platforms being created to address this. We wait and see!

 

Tony O. Lawson


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54Kibo, the Digital Marketplace Showcasing The Beauty of African Aesthetic and Luxury Décor

54kibo is the premier luxury digital home décor retailer for interior design professionals and consumers.

The brand was launched in 2018 by Nana Quagraine. Nana was inspired after her travels back and forth between over a dozen African countries and her home in Brooklyn, New York.

54kibo
Nana Quagraine

These travels helped her identify the strengths across the continent that could be exported to the world. 

54kibo

As a black woman, Nana was tired of the existing vocabulary used to describe Africa, blackness and womanhood. After she became a mother, she worried that there are not enough visual symbols, especially in the U.S. to signal to her children that their blackness is valued by society. She wanted them to be proud of their roots and have the same appreciation for Africa and for being a black person that her family instilled in her. 

54kibo

Driven by these multiple experiences, Nana decided to build something that was tangible, something that introduces a new vocabulary for Africa. After exploring a number of ideas over the years, design seemed like a no brainer.

54kibo

“People globally appreciate beauty. When you see beautiful design in art, fashion or home decor, it is undeniable – it draws you in”, she explained.” The uniqueness and beauty of contemporary African design is undeniable, it invites you to learn, explore its origins, learn something new about Africa, about the diaspora, about the world and hopefully about yourself.”

Adinkra inspired swaddles and kids blankets

How would you describe African aesthetic and design?

The 54 in 54kibo represents the 54 countries that are in Africa because every country in the continent has so much creativity and beauty to offer! The African aesthetic is vibrant, unique, and most importantly, visually new and appealing in the home decor category.

Contrary to common knowledge, African design is not limited to tribal designs. It covers a broad spectrum that includes minimalist designs, and colorful, bold, maximalist designs.

Design is driven by people, their daily experiences, aspirations and dreams. With over a billion people in Africa and the diaspora; and thanks to a growing and more demanding middle class with easier access to technology and information, African art and design is flourishing.

African design is adding a flair of innovation to the design world by being truly distinctive in a relatively homogeneous market place. Thebe Magugu becoming the first LVMH prize recipient from Africa, at this point in time is not a coincidence. There is already a pipeline of creative talent in Africa and the diaspora that is ready to be discovered and experienced.

At 54kibo, we’re curating this talent and making it frictionless to shop luxury and uniquely beautiful home decor. For example, we now have a trade program for interior designers, architects and other design professionals which makes it easier to shop from multiple designers from the diaspora on one platform.

This reduces the effort required to research and navigate multiple websites, negotiate terms and navigate logistics, payment systems, customs, quality issues and multiple other hurdles. We received a shipment of the Ile-Ila Alaafia rocker chair  today and we’re all still in awe of its bold design and beauty! Now our customers can enjoy this beauty without having to think about and deal with the hurdles. 

To what would you attribute the growing popularity of African aesthetics?

There continues to be an explosion in demand for Contemporary African art and fashion in the U.S. and globally. For example when I first saw art by Eddie Ilunga, from Democratic Republic of Congo, three years ago in New York it was selling for $10k, this month his work sold for over $75k at Sothebys.

That is an amazing return on investment.  For the home furnishings sector, which is often influenced by art and fashion trends, two years ago IKEA partnered with Design Indaba in South Africa to create a global collection, featuring a collection of prolific African designers that launched this year. We are thrilled to see this, as it is extraordinarily validating for our business proposition.  

In general, we now live in a world that is increasingly digitally connected and global; and there is a growing population of consumers with cosmopolitan tastes who are eager to explore the undiscovered corners of this world. They’re looking for the unique, the unexplored.

There is a whole creative world in Africa and the diaspora – some of the world’s most beautiful and least well-known designs – all waiting to be experienced. For black consumers, in addition to the above, our value-add is also representation.

Our first shipment of this exquisite pillow collection from Yael et Valerie based in Haiti, sold out before we could even list it! We’re providing access to a previously overlooked source of beauty, from designers who look like them. Offering a new and fresh perspective of design to all our customers and introducing designers in Africa and the diaspora to the world.

54kibo

How do you decide what items to carry?

When choosing our items, we look at the quality of each piece, the distinctiveness of the design, the designer’s story and most importantly, consider the needs of our customers and where the piece might reside in their life.

There is so much talent in the industry, it’s hard to narrow down our selection but we have a team with experienced merchandisers who have worked in the home category at major retailers.

We also work closely with leading interior designers in the New York area who help guide our selections. For example, we’ve met a lot of amazing product designers and interior designers through the Black Artist + Designers Guild, founded by Malene Barnett.

This Summer, 54kibo participated in the BADG Transcend space at NY NOW Trade Show. The space was designed and transformed with bold and creative pieces by interior designers Beth Diana Smith and Kiyonda Powell. Their space clearly showcased black design in a modern and beautiful way, which also won them the IFDA award for most Innovative Design.

Where do you see the business in 5 years?

It is ambitious but we want to build a global retail brand. To become the world’s go-to source for home décor with contemporary African design. We currently have over 30 incredible designers on the platform and will be adding more. We have 450 skus listed but this is less than 2% of the products available to us.

So, if customers prove us right and if we can achieve our sales targets in the short term, we plan to expand our products by 5x over the next twelve months. We look forward to continue collaborating with more product designers, interior designers, other retailers, and the media to showcase Contemporary African Design throughout the US, and ultimately, the world.


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Malick Sidibé, The Giant: Dawoud Bey and Other Artists Pay Tribute to the Malian Photographer

I saw a post from Senegalese contemporary artist Omar Victor Dip on facebook: “Abasourdi par une triste nouvelle, Malick Sidibé n’est plus… Je m’incline devant la mémoire et l’oeuvre de l’un des Grands. Vous qui l’avez connu, au delà des murs de son studio, je pense à vous.” Stunned by a sad news, Malick Sidibé is no more… I bow to the memory and the work of one of the greats. You who have known, beyond the walls of his studio, I think about you.

Could it be? I wasn’t sad in the way that I emoted at the news of the passing of Phife only a month ago. I felt something else. It’s the feeling of a great loss yet a moment where you find yourself engulfed by sheer awe when you take in the life and prolific work of a man who was a giant. Malian photographer, Malick Sidibé, took a camera and in return delivered to us our humanity, in all of its exquisite glory, right from his meta-progressive studio in metropolitan mid-twenty century Bamako. There would be no Dandy Lion Project without Sidibé – his photography defined everything that we love about US.

So it is with these thoughts and in my desire to pay tribute to giant of a man, turned ancestors, that I turned to my friends to – all enormous artists themselves – to pay tribute to someone who meant so much.

 – Shantrelle P. Lewis

Above Photo Credit: Benoit Facchi


Malik-Sidibe

Reflections on Malick Sidibé

“The representation of Africa has long been a fraught one. Conceptualized in the Western imagination as “the dark continent,” the images of and about Africa and Africans were often stereotypical at best and relegated to the misguided or the sterile realm of the anthropological more often than not.

Enter Malick Sidibé and his Rolleiflex camera, a fine German made instrument in the hands of this man from Bamako, Mali determined that there be a visual record of the West African community that was his home and the peoples who were his contemporaries as they emerged from the oppressive shadow of French colonialism in 1960. Photographing first in the spaces where people gathered and socialized and later setting up his studio, his photographs celebrated the exuberant and cosmopolitan Malians in the midst of celebrating themselves, dressed in the latest fashions, dancing the latest steps, posing for the camera in all of their “self possessed-ness” as their presence was permanently fixed and affirmed in his negatives. Colonial subjects no more, liberated into their full and public expressivity!

Sidibé became their collaborator, celebrating and mirroring their presence in his exquisitely crafted black and white photographs, all the while giving the lie to the image of Africans as essentialized peoples of one kind or another, either singularly oppressed and degraded or ennobled beyond the complex places in which they lived. Malick Sidibé’s pictures give the lie to all of that one dimensionality, replacing it with a richness and complexity, an attention to how form, gesture, attention to timing and psychology animate and elevate the person in front of the camera.

Yes, a great tree has fallen, but through his life and his glorious photographs his people remain standing tall, to be celebrated into eternity just as he will be.”

Dawoud Bey 

Malick Sidibe

“I once had the chance to be in his line of sight. Much like my father’s funeral, it was so surreal I honestly cannot recall many details. I remember his studio was in the middle of a crowded market. It was filled with photographs and cameras. I think I remember the color green. I remember that my shutter wouldn’t go off when I pointed my camera at him. I remember he gestured for me to put it down and turn around. I remember his son loaded his film but stepped away so his father could focus.
But I don’t remember the words we exchanged. Perhaps there were none.
I am because he is. Pure and simple.”
 Malick Sidibe
“Sidibé’s images have been one of the constant sources of inspiration for me for various projects I’ve worked on throughout the years. The emotional tenor of the works and the grace they display are a tremendous gift to our shared visual culture.”
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“Teacher, inspiration, artist, pioneer, trailblazer Mr Malick Sidibè, is a man I discovered only a few years ago while on my search to discover more about my African heritage and the art and creativity it has brought forth. At the time I had no idea that there had been or were such incredible, conceptual thinking photographers in Africa, creating such eye catching images in the 1960s and 70s. He readdressed the narrative of African culture by representing a new generation of vibrant young Malians to the world in his trade mark monochrome black and white style. The iconic photographs he produced at his studio in Bamako (Mali) during the 1960s and 70s have influenced a whole new generation of image makers including myself. His images cross boundaries and really give us a window back to a time and culture we wouldn’t have otherwise. He was a giant and an inspiration and although today we’ve lost someone extremely special, I’m full of gratitude to God for the life of Malick Sidibé, grateful for his passion, his artistry and the impact his purpose has had on so many of us, as both artists and lovers of African art. RIP.”
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“In most of our communities we understand the placement of the individual life as institution. We celebrate the mundane as monument. No one expressed that better than Malik Sidibé in Mali…His portraits were totems in the sanctity of community.”

Shawn Peters

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