In Kenya, virtual auctions and social media are the new online galleries
The emirate remains a magnet for artists and collectors from Asia through to Africa. “It’s important for the gallery to look east across the Indian Ocean, rather than always to Europe or America,” said Danda Jaroljmek, founder of Nairobi’s Circle Art Gallery. Sales at her gallery have quadrupled since September thanks to collectors having spare time through lockdowns, she said.
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De fait, partout où un marché local s’est plus ou moins structuré, les galeries ont réussi à tirer leur épingle du jeu. « L’annulation des foires nous a privé d’importantes sources de revenus et surtout de networking, admet Danda Jaroljmek, directrice de la Circle Art Gallery, à Nairobi. Mais en nous recentrant sur les acheteurs kényans, on s’en est sorti. Finalement, 2020 fut meilleure que les huit années précédentes ! »
Danda Jaroljmek, director of Circle Art Gallery in Nairobi, was feeling the effects of art-fair fatigue when she first heard of Cromwell Place. “The fairs are excellent for meeting new people but they’re intense and it’s all about selling because you’ve paid such a lot of money to attend,” she says. “You don’t have the luxury of sitting down.” … Cromwell Place is a flexible, cost-effective solution to this problem. … For Jaroljmek, the chance to gain access to top dealers and collectors in London was too good to miss. But it’s important to her that there are enough like-minded galleries, both contemporary and non-western, in the mix too.
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C& spoke with Nairobi-based artist Agnes Waruguru about her first solo show, recently on display at Circle Art Gallery.
Small things to consider, the first solo show of multimedia artist Agnes Waruguru, showed from September to October 2020. We spoke with Waruguru about her experimental use of materials and about the intimacy of transforming them into specific observations and memoryscapes relating to her environment, as well as why it was important for her to create a show that felt approachable.
Though the commercial art gallery scene is small and remains challenging (Asni Gallery, one of Addis’ stalwarts, recently shuttered), the growing local and international exposure is starting to pay off. “It’s important that we have a younger generation of Ethiopian artists at the auctions because we are attracting a lot of new buyers,” said Danda Jarolimek, a Nairobi-based curator who runs the annual East Africa Auction. “Those who have been collecting Nigerian, South African or Ghanaian art may not know huge amounts about East Africa, so it can be a starting point to learn about a new market,” she said over a phone call.
Founder of the Circle Art Agency in Nairobi, curator and ex-artist herself, Danda Jaroljmek is one of the most eminent figures in the East African art scene. We sat down with her to talk about her 20 years of experience in the visual arts in Kenya, from artistic organisations to the artists themselves.
Some artists in the region are hoping the international attention will help them get recognition. With growing interest from international auction houses and a flourishing gallery scene at home, East African art is catching on with global collectors and a new generation of local buyers. The region may lag behind the continent’s art powerhouses like South Africa or Nigeria, but experts say art in the region has attracted increasing interest in the past few years.
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Samit Gehlot, a collector in Nairobi whose family owns safari lodges, health clinics and a construction business, said he started going to pop-up shows and auctions of contemporary African art organized by Circle Art Agency three years ago. He started researching the globe-hopping exhibition resumes of several local artists he liked—including Cyrus Kabiru, who is known for taking self-portraits wearing outlandish homemade sunglasses—and then Mr. Gehlot started buying, a lot.