Positioning of African Art in the Global Art Market: A Look at Western Attitudes and Influences in the Lives of Contemporary African Artists in the United States
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DepartmentUMBC Modern Languages, Linguistics & Intercultural Communication Department
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The success of a contemporary African artist depends on how well the artist does in the global art market. The purpose of a global art market is to respectfully promote and equally recognize cultural others. However, the global art market has consistently been regulated under Western cultural, political, and economic systems. Western values dominate and marginalize other cultures such as contemporary African artists living in the United States. As a result, contemporary African artists are positioned on the periphery of the global art market. It is white male artists in the working and upper classes who gain the most social and economic privileges. Certain Western societies have not been as open and receptive to contemporary African artists as they have been to white male artists. The purpose of the study is to recognize behaviors that marginalize African artists in the art market, learn of contemporary African art, and create a dialogue that could change the positioning of contemporary African art in the global market. I identify Western behaviors that are particularly modeled after, but not limited to, the attitudes and influences related to the colonization (16*'’- 20*'’ century) and postcolonization (20*'’ -21®* century) of Africa by Europe and the United States of America. Even though some ethnographic museums and fine art galleries in the United States have made a place for traditional Afiican art, the on-going absence of contemporary Afncan artists reinforces colonial attitudes in today’s global art market. Such attitudes regard the paradigm of Afncan art as primitive, exotic, and inferior to Western art. Those in the art market who possess these attitudes refuse to view and, thus, accept modem concepts from contemporary African artists. In order to change prejudicial attitudes in the global art market, they must be recognized. Then, it is up to the individual to widen his perspectives. Studying contemporary Afncan artists living in the United States may encourage some Western societies to alter certain behaviors when regarding other cultural art. This research discusses Western attitudes that influence the global art market. In addition, it examines arguments against categorizing Western art as central and Afncan art as peripheral in post-modem and pluralistic societies. It also analyzes how contemporary Afncan artists and Westerners view traditional Afncan art and the legacy of traditional Afncan art in Afiican and Western contemporary art. Finally, this analysis examines the unfair presentation of contemporary Afncan art in Western museums and galleries.