African art works discover a new world of patronage


Here is a story I wrote for The Financial Times on African Art:

The sculpture standing in the corner of Ayo Adeyinka’s gallery is a message from the future: a child, standing on tiptoe, poised to launch herself into space on iridescent wings. The life-size work by Yinka Shonibare, a British-Nigerian artist, is emblematic of the kind of striking creations powering a surge in the value of African works and luring a new clientele to Tafeta, Mr Adeyinka’s art business in central London.

“It’s called ‘Butterfly Kids,’ because once we destroy the world, children — according to Yinka’s conceptualisation — are going to grow butterfly wings and fly away,” says Mr Adeyinka. “His sculptures say something, but they’re so beautiful you’re not put off by the statement he’s making.”

African artists have witnessed an explosion of attention in recent years, with painters and sculptors winning growing international acclaim and commanding soaring prices at auction from buyers who hope their work will mirror the dramatic price rises of contemporary Chinese art.

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