Addis Art Fair – Highlighting the Art Scene

The colorful buses painted by children in the parking lot at the Millennium Hall were only the beginning of all the exciting things happening at the Addis Art Fair from March 15 to March 18.

The hall was filled with things ranging from puppet shows, to all kinds of jewelry and basketwork, art pieces made of honey, and portraits made of corks. The first edition of the Addis Art Fair, attended by more than eight thousand people, highlighted the vibrant and thriving art scene in Addis Ababa.

This was a platform that dismissed any medium limitations and the works that were depicted were definitely a witness to that. The pieces transcended mediums and concepts. Paintings, photographs, graphic artworks and sculptures comprised some of the more classic mediums while honey, corks, calligraphy, and talisman work comprised some of the more outlandish pieces. Apart from that, the shoe sole works by Amanuel Workineh were also another highlight of the exhibition. He invited the audience to write what they feel on the soles of their shoes, using it as a communication tool for the people to express themselves, many had a lot to say. Economic frustration of the community, political fragility and the current service delivery issues regarding electricity, water and telecommunications were all written on the soles of people’s shoes.

With a sense of humor and shrewd sarcasm, the comments criticized the government. Apart from that, most of the comments were also sexist and objectified women. The event was organized by art historian, Elisabeth Woldegiorgis and Ale Felege Selam and design and art school instructor Bekele Mekonnen. The fair was aimed at creating a platform for artists as well as a venue for audiences to purchase affordable artwork.

After observing the audience, the organizers considered the event a successful one and the artists expressed their content. The art fair was aimed at creating a fair market and balancing the prices for art. Bekele Mekonnen believes this art fair is an alternative from the events that are happening in Addis Ababa. Since it was the first one and a trial period, it was for artists under forty. But starting next year it will include artists from the Sudan making it an East African hub.

For the organizers the reason they called it a success was that, apart from a mass crowd, amateur painters bought the artwork, which in a way met its goal, giving access to everyone. For many years buying art was elitist, left to a specific group, but now limiting pieces to eight thousand birr has broken that trend. With this art fair one of the comments was that it was “artwork for condos,” making the gap smaller. As Elisabeth Woldegiorgis said, usually many of the exhibitions are made up of mostly foreigners but many Ethiopians came to this art fair. Apart from that, appreciating the vibrant scene she says “artists with replica artwork sell their works for thousands of dollars. It is a senseless market and this need discussion among artists,”

Since this was also a space for aspiring young artists Bekele believes this will show them to respect and value their artwork rather than seeing it as a commodity.

Source : The Reporter

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