The Rise of Online Marketplaces

The Rise of Online Marketplaces - Omenka Online

“The global art world has begun to adopt digital transformation at an increased pace; this is a huge opportunity for African art,” says Tamzin Lovell-Miller, the founder and director of Art Fundi, who throws light onto the trajectory of the African art market. The unprecedented outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic served as a brow raiser, globally. Businesses were forced to implement disruptive sustainability initiatives or suffer the risk of fizzling out. The art market isn’t in any way an exception. Its groundbreaking sales records amid the ongoing travel restrictions prove that the pandemic—regardless of the negativity it exudes— is abetting a digital encroachment of the market. A report by Statistica projects the increase of online art sales to a total of 9.32 billion U.S. dollars by 2024. This drastic paradigm shift began before the outbreak of the pandemic; however, it grew exponentially with the implementation of worldwide lockdowns. Arngunnur Aegisdottir, the director of sales at Turbare, observes “The pandemic only accelerated for the art world the inevitable; that art would mainly be sold and bought online… Within the African context, the levels of exposure, access, and  revenue opportunities that online platforms grant galleries and artists remain a compelling reason for them to stay committed to this model.”

Keeping up with Online Art Market Trends amid the Pandemic

With the imposition of incessant lockdowns globally, there were concerns that the art market may experience a massive decrease in sales due to the absence of physical auctions and exhibitions. On the contrary, the opposite became the reality. The interest of buyers in purchasing art online piqued exponentially, therefore making art traders migrate to the digital environment if they weren’t already. “Over the pandemic, we have seen a tremendous amount of interest as many collectors have moved online and discovered ARTOJA for the first time.”- Joseph Gergel, co-founder of ARTOJA also reveals.

The Rise of Online Marketplaces - Omenka Online

Olisa Nwadiogbu, 2018, Lady in Wait, acrylic on canvas, 106.7 x 182.9cm. Courtesy of Turbare

Furthermore, digital art markets that were in existence before the pandemic, sought novel ways to provide somewhat similar experience collectors enjoyed in physical events. One of the ways in which traders have achieved this is to personalize the shopping experience of collectors, as well as ensure transparency in the selection of artworks. Art Zuri is one of the many new platforms that aim to leverage “curators specialising in African art; a trusted pool of experts” who vet the quality of the artworks submitted by artists before they are displayed on the platform, according to Clari Green, the founder of Art Zuri.

The economic impact of the pandemic on art events cannot be underestimated. From a positive perspective, the cost of gathering audiences to view and purchase the work is cheaper, considering the reach that online platforms provide. “The levels of exposure provided by these online channels are unparalleled and firmly push the galleries and artists on the African art market onto the global stage,” says Aegisdottir. Also, online art markets and virtual exhibitions inform how artists interact with their audience. Through social media and other platforms, artists and galleries are offering unparalleled access to their work and operations by engaging art lovers and making them active participants in their creative process. Besides, another observable trend is the emergence of digital composite platforms offering not only art but also fashion to ensure more exposure to new and broader audiences. A fine example is Ananse Africa, an online retail store retailing clothing and accessories for men, women, and children in addition to artworks. More so, it is in partnership with corporate giants like Master Card and DHL to ensure corporate support and provide miscellaneous offerings to their customers.

Full article published in our digital issue coming soon.

Read Design Indaba Announces Emerging Creatives Class of 2021


Sara Emezi is an imaginative writer and thinker; her work is inspired by spirituality, culture, the everyday experiences of Lagosians, and the city itself —where she was born and raised. During her time at Corona Secondary School, Agbara, she developed a keenness for media, particularly journalism. In her penultimate year, she became the secretary of the Press Club where she spearheaded and co-anchored the weekly Press News programme at assemblies. Sara Emezi holds a Leadership Certificate from Harvard University, which prepared her for team leadership in course projects at Pan-Atlantic University, where she studied mass communication. She has an avid interest in football, literature, and gender discourses.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *