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Though the commercial art gallery scene is small and remains challenging (Asni Gallery, one of Addis’ stalwarts, recently shuttered), the growing local and international exposure is starting to pay off. “It’s important that we have a younger generation of Ethiopian artists at the auctions because we are attracting a lot of new buyers,” said Danda Jarolimek, a Nairobi-based curator who runs the annual East Africa Auction. “Those who have been collecting Nigerian, South African or Ghanaian art may not know huge amounts about East Africa, so it can be a starting point to learn about a new market,” she said over a phone call.
Sile finds this encouraging. “When you look at the quality of art, then yes this could be the new epicenter. There is so much more talent and we are just scratching the surface,” she said.
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But, according to Elizabeth W. Giorgis, author of “Modernist Art in Ethiopia,” the lack of critics and art historians in Ethiopia has “really marginalized the field.” Konjit Seyoum, who founded Asni Gallery in 1996 and has been a huge influence on the country’s art scene, agrees. “There is still a lot to do in terms of developing all the different components for the promotion of contemporary Ethiopian art,” she wrote in an email, referring to the lack of publications, archives and public art museums.
“It is clear that in the absence of this proper infrastructure, it is small private initiatives that are making contributions to putting the country’s art on the global map.”
Another reason Seyoum belives that Ethiopia has taken a while to get a noticeable role on the global art stage, is because alongside the country’s insularity the wider art world wasn’t looking in either — for many years, there wasn’t much attention paid to the country’s artistic output.
“Ethiopia had to wait [for] its time to shine,” she said. And, thanks to the number of artists, curators, gallerists and art practitioners promoting Ethiopian contemporary art in a number of ways, now is proving to be a truly inspiring moment.”

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