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As demand for African art soars, galleries must take the initiative

Turbare will equip a new collector class with data and ease of access to African art: meaning galleries can reach an ever widening audience, says curator and gallery manager, Rachel Oteng-Lartey.

Author Rachel Oteng-Lartey Mon 12th Oct 2020
Visitors at 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, New York, 2019. Photo: Brittany Buongiorno.

It’s no secret that the African Art Market has seen exponential growth in recent years. A huge continent of 54 countries all with intensely different histories, cultures, and economies, previously seen globally as an untapped creative and cultural reservoir, is now stepping into the international spotlight.


African culture is going global. From fashion to film, and from the upbeat sounds pulsating out of Lagos to Nairobi, to the fact that Africa’s population and economic growth will be one of the key stories of the 21st Century.

The demand for African art is only going to head in one direction.

We’re seeing galleries, museums, and professional departments dedicated to the advancement of African Art. Art Collectors are seeing the new wave of talent coming from African country’s, and its’ diaspora is taking the opportunity to be ahead of the curve, with this emerging market.

The demand is high, the thirst is real and the prices for the most part are still relatively affordable. With leading auction houses, Sotheby’s and Bonhams, both now with dedicated African Art teams in the UK and US. Fairs such as 1:54 have editions in London, Marrakech, and New York. Contemporary African Art can no longer be considered a trend but a newly established market with huge potential.

So how does the African Art Market contend with the current global pandemic? 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair London edition will still go ahead October 8 – 10th at Somerset House, with a further 10 galleries exhibiting online.

With restrictions at events throughout the globe, it’s clear that Galleries must seek online platforms to showcase the artwork to audiences.

And not just the seasoned collectors but those who are new to collecting art. This is where Turbare is able to offer its unique method to focus on finding non-traditional buyers through Social Media channels, using detailed data analytics to guide the collector when making purchases.

Turbare acts as a platform to buy work online, not only as a promotional tool, but to fulfill orders and to manage the process as a total package for Galleries and Collectors. It is understandable that in developing economies within Africa, not all galleries have the systems and processes in place to fulfill orders from international clients.

“Artsy, which describes itself as the art world’s largest online marketplace is being openly shunned by small to mid sized galleries.”

Turbare can take on customer service, payment processing, and consumer protection laws specific to individual countries within the continent, along with shipping and import/export procedures.

The removal of these processes for the galleries in the transaction allows them to focus on sourcing new artists, developing artist relationships, and further mentoring artistic talent in the region – making for a more robust pool of creativity.

There are of course online art purchasing platforms already in place. Artsy, which describes itself as the art world’s largest online marketplace is being openly shunned by small to mid-sized galleries, who find the platform’s membership fees – which have increased during the COVID-19 epidemic – are no longer remotely affordable for galleries already reeling from the financial losses from postponed or reduced capacity fairs, and canceled physical exhibitions.

With rates reportedly increasing up to 40% during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only were the membership fees increased but an additional 15% commission has been outlined for the site’s ‘Buy it Now’ feature (source).

A peek inside Artsy’s New York City office. 

Artnet and FirstDibs are also models that charge both membership fees and commission on sales, are both less affordable than Turbare, and neither focus solely on African Art.

It is evident that there is space in the market for an Art Market platform that understands the pressures galleries are currently under during these unprecedented times.

Turbare is different, they work hard for the 15% standard rate commission they charge on all sales, and because there are no membership fees, Galleries can promote and list work via the platform with no risk, no initial financial outlay, and with the knowledge that the platform cares about sales over membership fees.

This commission incentive for Turbare to draw new collectors using social media channels is a model that prioritises sustainability in the market, longer-term support for small to mid-sized galleries, and will also encourage gallery loyalty to the platform.

In the wake of Covid-19, all galleries are needing to find ways to be as cost-effective as possible, whilst presenting new works to new clients online.

Turbare is dedicated to the ongoing development of the African Art Market more widely, and is the only African based, African Owned platform for selling African Work online, they are, it could be said, the only authentic choice for Galleries in Africa and the Diaspora.

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