In Paris, contemporary African art is making a place for itself in the “golden triangle”

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The exhibition

Since its inauguration on Friday September 17, the Mariane Ibrahim gallery, located at 18 avenue Matignon, in Paris, has not been empty. From the staff of the Louis-Vuitton Foundation to the close guard of François Pinault via the collector of African art Henri Seydoux, the elite of French buyers came to welcome the Nigerian artists Peter Ukan and Ruby Onyinyechi Amanze as to their Ghanaian colleagues Zohra Opoku and Amoako Boafo.

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“African artists are trained, they now have their signature, their style and their market, lists the Franco-Somali gallery owner based in Chicago. It was time for them to have a ring to compete with others! ” This ring, Mariane Ibrahim found it in the Parisian “golden triangle”, this opulent district of the VIIIe district where the most powerful galleries and auction houses in the square are now assembled.

An upscale clientele

Cécile Fakhoury also understood it well. To defend the colors of Africa, this Frenchwoman from Abidjan will settle in October at the corner of avenue Matignon and rue du Faubourg-Saint-Honoré. She initially hoped to open her third space in Accra, Ghana, before the pandemic played havoc. The real estate complex in which it was to be integrated being postponed sine die, She prospected in the district of the Bourse de Commerce, stronghold of François Pinault, before turning to avenue Matignon.

Paris is in his eyes “The anchoring necessary to give more international visibility to African artists”. A necessary step to reach the upscale clientele of large hotels and starred restaurants, of course, but especially European and American museums, more difficult to raise awareness in the context of fairs. But make no mistake: out of the question for Cécile Fakhoury to abandon Abidjan, where she has a large space of 400 m2, nor Dakar, where it split in 2018. Especially since it has managed to build a local market in less than a decade, with 40% of works now finding a buyer on the African continent.

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The double arrival, one month apart, of Mariane Ibrahim and Cécile Fakhoury delighted the auction houses of the district, which have all integrated a department devoted to the arts of Africa. “Matignon becomes the African quarter! “, enthusiasm, willingly excessive, Christophe Person, specialist at Artcurial. “It is a strong symbol”, greets Olivia Anani, from the Piasa auction house, who welcomes the “Neighborhood of Mariane Ibrahim with the White Cube gallery or of Cécile Fakhoury with the Lelong gallery, two big names in the market”.

Christie’s can also be happy about this, especially since discussions are underway to host a second Parisian edition of the 1:54 fair in the first half of 2022, dedicated to the African continent.

Regain control

For the two newly installed gallery owners, there is nevertheless an urgent need to regain control of the big auction houses. “There are too many African art auctions in France with works by artists under the age of 30, sometimes produced in 2020, which are usually found in galleries”, laments Cécile Fakhoury, who nevertheless recognizes the substantive work carried out by the African art department of Piasa.

The pill is all the harsher to swallow as artists only benefit indirectly from soaring auctions, which certainly increase their notoriety but first of all enrich speculators. In May, a work by the Ivorian star Aboudia, whose real name is Abdoulaye Diarrassouba, sold for a record price of 232,000 dollars (190,000 euros) at Sotheby’s, when Cécile Fakhoury presented her paintings between 15,000 and 120,000 euros. . The same month, Piasa sold a diptych by the German-Kenyan duo Mwangi Hutter for 44,200 euros, three times its estimate. The coins of this pair are currently exchanged between 10,000 and 15,000 euros at Mariane Ibrahim.

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While considering that “Galleries and auction houses are complementary”, she is not unhappy to have sold a painting by Amoako Boafo to a Parisian collector for around 200,000 euros – when her auction record exceeds one million dollars. With for the buyer an obligation, notified by contract: that the painting is not resold before five years. A rule that Mariane Ibrahim has always applied to all of her artists.