The Future of the African Fine Art Industry


ICT Expo Ethiopia, under the theme Transform Ethiopia, recently wrapped in Addis with thousands in attendance, anxious for a sneak peak of the ET Tech horizon. The Expo was a platform for the public and private sector and people in all stages of life; including folks at career crossroads trying to re-invent themselves…pun intended. The innovations presented, for the not-so-far-in the future, have been propagated through STEM programs over the past decade. Side note: the acceptable revised term is STEAM. You guessed it, A for Arts. So as artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, crypto currency, multi-use drones and a humanoid robot called Sophia who met PM Abiy Ahmed, were featured, this triggered my thoughts about the theory of disruption.
Disruptive innovation is terminology used in tech-spheres referring to innovation that creates new markets, adds value to networks; displacing existing firms, goods, business models and relationships. So how is disruptive innovation related to African fine art, especially in the arguable absence of a system to displace? Bob Marley sings in Redemption Song, “…none but ourselves can free our mind…”.  I propose that existing mindset and perceptions of fine art must be disrupted and displaced in order to build a solid industry. Consistent with sneak peaks into Tech, I share a list of careers on the Africa Art horizon for those who wish to diversify and develop the art industry.
Art Consultants assist individuals to institutions in the selection and acquisition of art for homes, businesses, collections and investment.
Art Appraisers offer professional opinions, based on extensive research, on the value and validity of art for insurance, tax valuation, auctions, divorce and estate settlements.
Art Educators include teachers from kindergarten to college who instill value for visual art, encourage free flow of ideas and innovation; while expanding the vocabulary and related professions such as art therapy and technology.
Art Accountants specialize in tax laws, ensuring appropriate deductions and protections for clients.
Art Historians possess higher education; studying, discussing, documenting and some times restoring art.
Art Tourism Experts/Consultants help the public and private sector develop tourism strategies based on the Creative Cultural Industries (CCI) for local and continental tourism; create PR campaigns for acquisition and promotion of high profile artworks, public art, exhibitions and more.
Art Tour Guides take tourists to studios, galleries and museums; they have a basic knowledge of the artists and art work, with relationships in the art community.
Art Dealers buy and sell art, and can impact the price and trajectory of artwork and exhibitions,  when part of a recognized association of Art dealers.
Art Agents/Promoters use their vast network of contacts with media, ministries, businesses and more to promote artists, their work, institutions, exhibitions and shows.
Art Curators organize exhibitions from selecting, documenting and interpreting art to coordinating catalogues and arranging show related logistics.
Art Restoration provide services to museums, galleries and collectors with older works in need of restoration, conservation and preservation,also included may be frame repairs, cleaning and retouching.
Art Framers/Installers provide a range of services from making canvases for artists, professional framing and displaying art in galleries, museums, homes and businesses. They handle art with care, ensuring safe and aesthetically sound displays.
Art Critics publishin-depth analysis and evaluation in the form of critiques or reviews in print and on web based sites, frequented by collectors and art aficionados alike.
Art Journalists report, profile and discuss artists, their works and the impact of said on current affairs or society in general.
Art Tech Experts create virtual exhibitions, database for art/artists and develop e-commerce solutions for buying, selling and marketing art.
Art Insurance companies provide coverage for artworks from personal collections, museums and galleries to businesses and established artists.
Art Packing/Transportation ensure the safe packing, transport and delivery of fine art.
Art Materials Manufacturers/Distributors/Sales speak to the providers of paint, pens, pastels, charcoal, art/photography paper, brushes and more.
While this list is by no means exhaustive, it does represent a snap shot of opportunities on Ethiopia’s horizon for a growing generation of innovative entrepreneurs working on the ‘what next’. It’s also relevant for existing businesses, with vision, seeking to expand existing line of products and services. Equally important is the chance for Ethiopia, and Africa in general, to benefit from a fast growing demographic known as the creative class, who can afford to drive a viable art industry. So just as humanoid Sophia has been welcomed to Ethiopia by our PM, with a tacit ‘commitment to nurturing an innovation ecosystem,’ we propose a similar  exploration, expansion, injection and application of attention to policies that grow this multi-billion dollar industry which employs millions of women and youth in Africa and worldwide.

Dr. DestaMeghoo, Jamaican born Creative Consultant and cultural promoter is based in Addis Ababa. She settled in Addis Ababa as former Managing Director of the Bob Marley Foundation, in 2005 and currently serves as Liaison to the AU for Ghana based, Diaspora African Forum.