How to Start Collecting African Art as a Millennial

Feb 14, 2022

A general misconception a lot of people, especially across Africa, tend to have is that art & craft collection is an activity reserved only for the rich and mighty in society. But this is simply just not true.

The creative world is filled with a diverse selection of creatives ranging from emerging to more established ones. This gives everyone an opportunity to enjoy buying and owning art in a way that is affordable to each individual.

You can buy original pieces from artists you like for as low as $100 or as much as $1,000,000 depending on your income bracket. And the cool thing about collecting art & crafts is that it is something you get to enjoy every day and if well selected, it appreciates in value over time and can become a good addition to your investment portfolio – remember JAYZ’s lines from “The Story of OJ”:

I bought some artwork for one million

Two years later, that ish worth two million

Few years later, that ish worth eight million

I can’t wait to give this ish to my children

This goes to show that art & crafts collection doesn’t only have to be for decorative purposes (though this should ideally be the primary rationale behind choosing any piece!), they can also occupy an important space in your portfolio, serving as a hedge against inflation, adding diversification and reducing your portfolio’s volatility.

If you are a millennial who has a flair for African art & crafts but are green to the world of art collecting and not sure about where to start from, we’ve outlined 5 key steps you can follow to get into the game, collect precious pieces of history and support the talented creatives behind the work.

Figure out what you love

Just like with any other item you would purchase, e.g. a car, clothing item, or a pair of shoes, you need to understand the kind of art & craft pieces that you love and enjoy. There are so many mediums and styles for artwork ranging from acrylic paintings on canvas to wooden sculptures to even black and white photographs. Understanding what speaks to you and brings you a feeling of joy every time you look at it is key. 

In order to do this, you need to carry out a bit of research by reading up on various Creatives/Artists and looking at the kind of work they put out. You can note down the Creatives you like and the kind of styles/mediums you seem to find more visually appealing. This will start to give you a clear idea of the kinds of works you would like to have in your collection. 

You might find that you like metal sculptures and want to start a collection that will consist only of these types of works or you might be keener on having a mix of everything! Whatever it is, just make sure that you are only buying a piece of art or craft because you genuinely like it. Even if you envision it to serve as an addition to your investment portfolio, you should be able to look at it every day and smile.

Video of Dynast Amir’s Art Collection. Video: Youtube

Define your budget & start small

Now that you have identified what you like, the next thing you want to do is define how much you are willing to spend on art & crafts. This will help you know what you can afford to buy and how often. 

You can approach budgeting for your collection in different ways. For example, you can decide to set a fixed budget of say $1000 per month for all art & crafts purchases, or define a maximum spend of $500 per artwork, or just have a max budget of say $5000 for the entire year. 

The important thing is to start small and grow gradually from there as you start to better understand the world of art and grow your collection. Just be sure to always prioritize quality over quantity. It is so much better to collect 1 or 2 pieces you actually love that cost $2500 – $5000 than try to buy 10 or 20 random pieces just because.

You should also note that great art does not equal expensive art. Never devalue art or craft pieces just because they seem too affordable. If you really like a piece of work, whether it costs $25 or $1000, you should go for it!

Artwork from emerging artists is always a great place to start if you are on a tight budget. These young creatives have a lot of room for career growth and increased art market value as they progress, which implies that collecting their work could turn out to be very profitable in the long run.

Plus, by collecting works by an emerging creative, you are supporting them and giving them an opportunity to put out even more work. You can check out some of the emerging artists on our platform here.

Limited edition prints on paper & photographs are worth it too

If you have defined your budget, you might find that the kind of original works you would really love to purchase are way above your spending limit. That should not be a source of discouragement because oftentimes, artists will produce signed limited edition prints of their work in smaller, more affordable batches. An edition basically implies that once the listed editions are sold, the artist won’t be able to sell any more of that same piece, meaning your one-of-10 work of art won’t become a one-of-1,000.

On Creatives Auction, you can get prints for some of the work listed on the site on request by reaching out to us at [email protected]. A general guide for purchasing prints is to seek out high edition number prints e.g 1/300 for more established artists as that would be more affordable, and lower edition numbers e.g. 1/10 for emerging artists. The smaller the edition quantity though, the more valuable a piece of work could turn out to be.

Photographs are also another more affordable option. Just like with prints, they come in limited editions and should be selected based on the theme, aesthetic quality, or subject matter that is of interest to you. Other factors such as the type of print (e.g. C-print or silver gelatin print) or the type of ink and paper used should also be considered here. Photographs printed on matte paper will look very different from those printed on glossy paper, for example.

Example of limited edition artwork print

Limited Edition Signed Artwork Print Example. Photo: Sara Sien

Example of Signed Photograph

Limited Edition Signed Photograph Example. Photo: Agora Gallery

Get to know the Creatives

Knowing the artist/creative behind the piece of art or craft that you are purchasing is just as important. You want to know their stories, where they currently are in their career and essentially try to build relationships with them. This way, you can become one of their personal clients and be one of the first set of people to hear about any new works that they have.

African creative

Velma Rossa in Accra, GhanaPhoto: YagazieEmezi / Courtesy of Tastemakers Africa

Ask Questions!

Starting an art collection can prove to be an intimidating task, but being able to enjoy the process should be your main goal. You should always be sure to ask questions when in doubt. Ask about the creative/artist behind the work, ask about the fairs/exhibitions they have been a part of or even about the proper installation process for the work. We have incorporated an “Ask Questions” feature on the Creatives Auction platform that allows visitors to directly interact with Creatives to learn more about each piece of art. You can also send us an email at [email protected] should you need more support.

Select your currency