The interior of an art gallery with a square, yellow sculpture in the foreground

Contemporary African Art Auctions: A whirlwind tour

Contemporary African art auctions are a vibrant world where creativity meets commerce in a celebration of cultural expression. In this exploration, we’ll guide you through a diverse array of notable auctions held on the African continent, providing valuable insights into the dynamic landscape of art investment.

Why Consider Art Auctions?

Art auctions have become an increasingly popular avenue for acquiring valuable pieces, especially in the context of contemporary African art. Suppose you are looking to invest in art. In that case, auctions provide a unique platform to discover emerging talent (on rarer occasions), established artists, and rare gems that you might not easily find in galleries or art fairs.

Several notable collections have been sold in part or wholesale in recent years. Some to check out include those of M&C Saatchi Abel, Emily Fisher Landau or Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen collections. 

The Rise of Contemporary African Art

Before delving into specific auctions, let’s reflect on the growing significance of contemporary African art. With a rich tapestry of cultures, histories, and perspectives, African artists are gaining global recognition for their unique expressions. Ivorian artist Aboudia was the bestselling artist of 2022, according to a survey by Hiscox, a specialist insurance company and an underwriter of Lloyds of London, the famous insurance and reinsurance market in London, United Kingdom. According to the survey, 75 artworks by Aboudia were auctioned, followed by British artist Damien Hirst with 73 works.

As the demand for contemporary African art surges, auctions become vital for buyers and sellers. When market statistics are produced, they are based on auction market data. As is the case in the broader financial services sector, industry participants see auctions as a perfect market given that the prices at which sales occur are deemed to be done with complete transparency. In contrast, private sales may have different levels of transparency. Information asymmetry in private sales has recently been making the news.

Contemporary African Art Auctions Across the Continent

Here are a number of the auctions across the African continent to note. They conduct fine art sales, and the region they cover or are located in is also indicated. Note that there may be other auction houses in each area whose deals consist of many articles, including fine art.

Aspire Art (South Africa)

Located in South Africa, with offices in Johannesburg and Cape Town, Aspire Art is a crucial player in the African art auction scene. Since its founding in 2016, they host regular auctions featuring a mix of established and emerging artists, contributing to the dynamic landscape of the local art market. Their comprehensive collector reach and appeal make them one of the most inclusivity-minded auction houses. They are also notable in South Africa as they focus on art. In contrast, other auction houses also host auctions for other collectables like wine and jewellery.

Art Auction East Africa (Kenya)

The Circle Art Agency orchestrates Art Auction East Africa, a significant platform showcasing the diverse talent from East Africa. This auction provides a unique opportunity to explore the artistic narratives of East Africa. Typically held once a year, Art Auction East Africa held their first auction in 2013 in Nairobi.

ARTcapital (Ghana)

ARTcapital is a prominent auction house in Ghana’s vibrant art scene in Accra. Its events offer a glimpse into contemporary art practices emerging from this West African nation. Although there are several recent blog posts, the website of this auction house, founded in 2009, does not indicate auction results or upcoming auctions, which are vital to assessing the local art market and assisting local and international collectors in accessing artworks by artists collected by Ghanaian collectors.

Arthouse (Nigeria)

Founded in 2007 and based in Lagos, Arthouse is a leading auction house driving the conversation around contemporary Nigerian art. Their auctions are vital in promoting and preserving the nation’s artistic heritage. Arthouse Contemporary has recently expanded with Arthouse-The Space, which organises exhibitions of contemporary art, as well as the Arthouse Foundation, a non-profit residency-based programme in Lagos.

Artcurial (Morocco)

In 2019, Artcurial, headquartered in Paris, France, extended its influence to Marrakech. This platform provides exposure to the region’s diverse artistry through two categories of auctions: Contemporary African Art and Orientalist Paintings, the latter focusing on artworks from the Arab states in North Africa.

Strauss & Co Contemporary Art Auction (South Africa)

Strauss & Co has established itself as a leading auction house in South Africa. Their Contemporary Art Auctions are a testament to the diverse narratives within African contemporary art, attracting both local and international collectors. A notable auction held in February 2023, “Curatorial Voices,” invited seven art experts to assist with diversifying the artworks presented at an auction on Modern and Contemporary Art from Africa. This auction led to several artists entering the public secondary markets for the first time.

Navigating the Auction Scene

Auction results can be a valuable resource for improving your knowledge about the style of a particular artist and for building a sense of the type of artwork you like at a price relevant to your budget. For those new to art auctions as a way to create your collection, it’s crucial to approach them with knowledge and strategy. Our blog article, Beginner’s Ultimate Guide to Collecting Art for Value, offers valuable insights into understanding the art market, assessing the value of artworks, and developing a collecting strategy.

A room of chairs set up like an auction of contemporary African art

Auction Houses with multi-national reach

Moving beyond the African continent, several auction houses headquartered in London, New York and beyond hold significant modern and contemporary African art auctions throughout the year. These houses often have representatives based in various cities across the African continent, mainly Johannesburg, Lagos, and Cairo.


  • Location: Multiple across four continents
  • Overview: Sotheby’s is a global powerhouse in the art auction industry, with its only Africa-based representation being in Cairo. African Modern and Contemporary Art auctions have been held in New York, London, Paris, Cologne, and Tel Aviv. London is the most popular location. 

Bonhams Skinner

  • Location: Multiple across five continents
  • Overview: Bonhams markets itself as the global market leader for Modern & Contemporary African Art and hosts several auctions by that department annually. Though they do not host auctions on the African continent, London, New York, and Paris sales provide a global stage for contemporary African art. With representatives in Lagos, Nigeria and Johannesburg, South Africa, Bonhams facilitates a seamless connection between artists and collectors.


  • Location: France
  • Overview: Founded in 2002, Artcurial enjoys international recognition and has earned its place at the forefront of the art market. While primarily based in Paris, also hosts sales in Monaco and Marrakech.


As you embark on your journey into contemporary African art auctions, remember that each piece tells a unique story. Whether you’re a seasoned collector or a novice investor, these auctions provide a gateway to discovering exceptional artworks that could become valuable additions to your collection.

Remember to document the details of the artworks you acquire at an auction or any other sale. Visit and create a free account so that you can easily document your artworks to preserve their value and ensure you can easily access that information should you wish to sell the artworks in future. 

Let us know which auction houses you’ve bought art from in the comments – we would love to hear from you.