Kavita Chellaram an avid art collector and founder of Lagos top auction house discusses the Nigerian art market and its potential for growth with the publication.
Born in India and educated in London, Kavita Chellaram discovered an opportunity in 2007 while living in Lagos to start a company that sets standard and provide transparency in price and structure in the Nigerian art market.The auction house, Arthouse Contemporary, focuses on modern and contemporary art from West Africa and till today is one of the leading auction houses in Africa. It holds auctions twice yearly, selling art worth more than $6.5 million dollars and achieving some record-breaking prices.
As a promoter of the arts, art collector and lover African textile, Chellaram is also a trustee of the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts and a member of the African Acquisition Committee of Tate Modern.
Here’s an excerpt from the interview.
Regarding the of the current market in Africa, and Nigeria in particular:
The art market in Nigeria is steadily growing, and our auctions attest the viability of modern and contemporary African art as an investment. When we launched, there was very little transparency in terms of pricing and structure in the art market, so our goal was to provide a platform that could monitor and evaluate such a market. We achieved a 90 percent selling rate at our first auction, and since then our sales have consistently provided positive results—even during the global economic crash, during which we still sold 70 percent by lot. With more global opportunities available for artists in Africa to get on the international radar, such as Okwui Enwezor’s 2015 Venice Biennale, Tate Modern’s focus on African art, the launch of the 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair, and dedicated sales such as Bonhams Africa Now, to name just a few, the interest continues to grow. In terms of the global art market, modern and contemporary African art is still largely affordable. This allows for a great opportunity for new collectors and investors to develop serious collections. Arthouse Contemporary recently launched a new project aimed at emerging collectors, titled the Affordable Art Auction. A yearly supplement to our biannual auctions of modern and contemporary art, it allows first-time buyers an entrance into collecting. It is important for us to create a new collector base that can expand the opportunities in the market.
On art collection and demand of African contemporary art:
Collectors in Africa are increasingly becoming the buyers of African art, lessening our reliance on a European clientele. This is incredibly rewarding, as it creates an indigenous group of collectors who can build the appre-ciation of art and local artists, particularly here in Nigeria. In this country, being Africa’s largest economy and largest oil producer, a new class of collectors is emerging with an interest in art as an asset and its potential as an investment.
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