Dr Paul Bayliss

Senior Specialist Art Curator at Absa Group.

African artists finding their unique voice

Creatives and businesses from across Africa must drive the growth trajectory in African art to ensure that the industry reaches its full potential, writes Dr Paul Bayliss, Senior Specialist Art Curator at Absa Group.


African art has come a long way since Pablo Picasso first saw the 1907 exhibition of African objects at the Trocadero Ethnographic Museum in Paris, with a marked increase in interest and invitations extended to African artists to showcase their work on international platforms. From the Museum of Modern Art to the Tate Modern as well as fairs such as Art Basel, Frieze and Armory, the art from Africa’s fearless creators is assuming its rightful place in galleries, museums and private collections across the globe.

We have also witnessed African art collectors driving global sales of contemporary African art. Sotheby’s, one of the world’s oldest and largest auction houses and brokers of art, collectibles, jewellery and real estate, recently concluded its bi-annual Modern and Contemporary African Art Auction.

The auction exceeded the lower end of its pre-sale estimate by over 40% to net almost R52 million (US$ 3.7 million), making their third online-only auction of contemporary African art a major success.

African creators making a name for themselves on a global stage, to name a few, include Cape Town visual artist Loyiso Mkize, who pencilled his first comic book for DC Comics, and multi-award-winning illustrator and street artist Karabo Poppy Moletsane, whose eye-catching work has led to collaborations with Google, Netflix, Apple and Nike, for whom she designed a sold-out Air Force 1 sneaker collection.

Now more than ever, creators and businesses from across Africa need to join forces to ensure that this growth trajectory is maintained, enabling the industry to reach its full potential.

Loyiso Mkize has pencilled his first comic book for DC Comics’ BATMAN: URBAN LEGENDS, taking his talent to the big leagues. The new comic book will go on sale at bookstores in the USA from 8 June 2021.