Kalkidan the current truth

“I spent most of 2014 trying to see if it was even possible. To see what it would take to open a gallery, not just a space here in Addis, but an international gallery that could link up with people outside of Ethiopia,” Haileleul says.

In 2016, a permanent gallery opened its doors, supported by a temporary space in London shortly after. The gallery spanned two continents, acting as a bridge to the international art community. “We could offer this connection with the outside world – the international art market. We are the first real gallery to have done that in the history of this country, which is crazy,” he says.
These connections have proven to be invaluable – just six weeks after opening, Addis Fine Art found itself at the Armory Show in New York, a major coup for a relatively young, unheard-of gallery. The gallery has since displayed at huge fairs in Dubai, London, Paris, Johannesburg and Lagos. In a short space of time, it has shot to the forefront of the African art scene.

“The main goal is to help Ethiopian artists get more international exposure,” says Haileleul. “It’s the process of building a bridge. That means, at times, showing works in our space, but more importantly, getting the work into the big, important international fairs.”
The next step, according to Haileleul, is targeting the more mainstream fairs, those with a broader focus, beyond African art. The gallery saw its first collaboration with UNTITLED, ART in Miami Beach in December 2019, showcasing the works of abstract minimalist painter Tariku Shiferaw.

Troubles at home
Unfortunately, giving Ethiopian artists an international platform is only half the challenge: there are obstacles at home, too. The biggest issue is tax – there’s currently a hefty 30 percent income tax on an artist’s earnings – not to mention the many, confusing legislative hoops they must jump through.

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