Addis’s growing art scene
It has been an important week for Addis’s cultural life as the city has come to declare its emerging artistic identity.The third edition of Art of Ethiopia exhibition took place from the 21st to the 24th of August at Sheraton’s Addis Lalibela Grand Ballroom. One of the largest exhibitions ever held, Art of Ethiopia showcased more than 400 new works created specifically for the occasion. Around 40 established and young artists displayed works of paintings, sculptures, installations, bronze castings and wood carvings.
The exhibition has attracted thousands of visitors and the hotel has seen more than 16,000 visitors during the four-day event. Stylish young women flashing designer bags mingled with bearded artists and men wearing conservative business suits. Organizers say they are very pleased with the number of people attracted to the venue.
One of the artists who participated in the exhibition, Abyalew Assefa told Addis Journal that use of booth space in this year’s edition has been much better than last year’s. “It allowed for the display of larger and small scale works. The space and light have has been arranged in such a way that watching the show has been a great experience. There might have been too many pieces but the presentations have made them pleasant to look at,” he said.
Most of the artists presented around ten works and some with series of stories as their subject. “The artists were given a chance to present their themes in series of works, adding up in one work what they have started in another. The presentation was excellent,” Abyalew said. This is the second time that he is participating in the exhibition. His focus has been showing aspects of female beauty by combining with landscape like in this work.
Another of the artists who has exhibited her work here is an Armenian-Ethiopian artist Kohar Kevorkian. She’s displayed her work internationally and exhibited here alongside with renowned artists such as Afewerk Tekle, Mezgebu Tessema, Tadesse Mesfin.
Kohar attended the Addis Ababa School of Fine Arts from 1995-1997 and later studied at the Regent Academy of Fine Arts in London. Her art shows emotion, feeling, energy, feminism, color and the importance of function.
This art expo, many agreed, was fun, organized, and well produced. The hall itself impressed as a spotless venue for close watching. It even included space for a photo display of Tilahun Gessesse, the vocal patriarch who passed last year.
There’s also been some impressive buying and selling.According to the organizers, ninety percent of the works found buyers. “It’s fantastic, really. The modern Ethiopian art market is quite young and new but it’s very exciting and has really taken off. The art fair has seen immense sale which is really encouraging,” the curator of the exhibition says.
First launched in 2008 to showcase the work of 8 artists, the annual Art of Ethiopia 2009 attracted two hundred pieces and the number doubled to 400 this year.A catalogue of the art works on display, along with biographies of each artist, was offered for sale. The proceeds from the sale of the work will go to the Sheraton Addis Art Endowment, a charity promoting arts, culture and heritage.
Organizers expressed optimism that the annual art exhibition is on course to generate the much needed global interest in the nation’s visual art sector for the tourism potential and as a means of repositioning the visual arts sector as a catalyst for the economic growth of the country. Art of Ethiopia conceptualized this program to be an annual event for the visual art sector.
Ethiopian art draws on a rich tradition that goes back thousands of years but what is seen here is its commercial and artistic evolution.