Sales of contemporary and modern African art have surpassed all previous records. The growing demand for modern and contemporary works by African artists is one of the most notable trends on the African art market. Global art sales grew by three percent annually to an estimated USD 67.8 billion in 2022, the second year of growth following a strong recovery in 2021 and bringing the market above its pre-pandemic level in 2019. However, the market’s premium segment remained the primary growth driver.
Africa, according to Statista, contributed USD 13 billion to the global art market in 2018, and this number is expected to increase to USD 15 billion by 2023.
In what appears to be an untapped resource in the country, Ethiopian artists’ aesthetics are influenced by a vast artistic lineage spanning centuries. And now, with the art movement taking shape and artists finding venues to exhibit their work, either in galleries or online, the sector has expanded.
The Big Art Sale is one such event that accomplishes this objective. The highly anticipated annual event for artists and art enthusiasts began on March 30, 2023, with a press conference held by its organizers at the Hilton Hotel.
What’s Out! Addis organizes the Big Art Sale in collaboration with the Hilton Addis Ababa, Coca-Cola, BGI Ethiopia, and Dashen Bank. Typically, more than 150 local artists offer their original works for sale in this entertaining and family-friendly event over the course of a weekend. The Big Art Sale began collaborating with the Hilton Hotel almost five years ago, 13 years after the beginning of their journey.
This year, it is anticipated that more than 5,000 people will attend over the two days, and more than 263 local artists will exhibit their work under one roof, compared to 150 last year. The event will be held in an open hall at the Hilton Hotel on April 8 and 9, 2023, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with more than 3000 works of art on display and for sale, with buyers having the opportunity to meet and converse with the artists.
18 years ago, only 10 to 15 artists participated in the Big Art Sale, and only 300 pieces of art were available for viewing or purchase. Today, more than 200 artists are involved, and thousands of their works are on display.
The event will be held in a large tent located on the hotel’s grounds. The tent will feature food and drink vendors, music, and a children’s entertainment area where they can try their hand at pottery, painting, and other creative activities, along with a space for the display of the artists’ works.
“All of the artists’ profits from the sale of their work at this event go directly into their pockets,” Rahel Birhane, the managing director of What’s Out! Addis, says. “No amount of money is taken from the artists during the event.” She also mentioned that the proceeds from the 200 birr per person ticket sales will be donated entirely to charity.
The artists participating in this event are members of the Ethiopian Art Community. It collaborates with the Big Art Sale to provide artists with support and access to sellers while simultaneously strengthening the Ethiopian Art Community.
In addition to keeping the profits from their sales, the artists are free to set their own prices and have no limits or starting points for their sales. “Which artwork they sell and for what price is entirely up to them, and any price negotiation takes place only between the buyer and the artist,” Rahel explained.
The Big Art Sale, according to Edom Belete, an art curator for the Dashen Culture Club, is one of the many platforms organized throughout the year. A partnership between Dashen Bank and What’s Out! Addis created the Dashen Culture Club program four years ago. Each year, the Club endeavors to provide multiple venues for Ethiopian art and culture.
Dashen Bank’s financing and investment analyst, Yisehak Abrham, claims, “This program is an effort to grow and strengthen Ethiopia’s art and culture and hopes to play a role in reducing the disparities that exist in that world.”
He says that international art buyers and organizations frequently wished to purchase Ethiopian art but lacked sufficient funds. According to him, the bank attempted to resolve this issue by accepting international debit cards.
The primary objective and significance of The Big Art Sale is to support the artistic community of Ethiopia while also donating to and assisting non-profit organizations selected by the project partners. It has worked for the past 18 years to create a venue where artists can exhibit and sell their work to people from all over the world, to whom they might not otherwise have access, and make a profit so they can continue doing what they love.