NFTs herald a new frontier for African contemporary art

Thursday, March 11, 2021, defines the moment in the NFT story. The day will remain forever etched in the mind of artists, historians, collectors, crypto enthusiasts, and anyone captivated by tech. 

Most importantly, NFTs found a place in the mainstream consciousness.

On this day, Beeple sold his Everydays: the first 5000 days collage as an NFT for $69.3 million — a record-breaking sale. 

Keen followers of the African art scene basked at the moment, too, because it heralded a new frontier for contemporary African artists.

Besides the politics that bedevil the continent, and to a large extent, the African diaspora's dismal performance on most fronts, the moment is worth celebrating. 

NFT's mainstream recognition and broader acceptance present an enormous growth opportunity. Currently, African and Black contributions to art sales are just 1% of the total global collective. Typically, art galleries take a large chunk of the earnings, between 40-50%. It's harder for Africans or Black artists to secure a spot in coveted gallery space. It’s even harder for these artists to achieve the coveted collectors’ status.

In response to this, Sotheby, a renowned art auction house, created a section fully dedicated to contemporary African art on their platform. Even now, the market continues to grow. This platform has sold tens of millions of contemporary African art, 70% of which was bought by Africans. While the growing number is to be celebrated, artists only receive roughly half of the monetary benefit from these sales.

By contrast, the NFTs marketplace only receives a small percentage of the sale in NFTs. Marketplaces like OpenSea and Nifty Gateway charge 2.5-5% of the final sale. It’s practically nothing when compared to 40-50% for the traditional galleries. Plus, the creator benefits from perpetual royalties, 10% for subsequent sales of their creations. The beauty of NFTs!

The Growing Art Scene In Africa

African art is young, vibrant, and inspired extensively by their struggles, occasionally by their significant strides. The artists, usually drawn from poverty-stricken regions and a handful from "privileged” backgrounds, adore activism. The African continent’s artistry is cultivated by freeing the motherland of societal ills, political turmoils, or social imbalances.

That said, some questions still linger: how will NFTs affect Africa's contribution to the global art market? How will artists benefit from the newfound decentralized platforms?

Tomorrow, we will cover the rise of African Art on this platform and answer this very question.

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